2018 NFL free agency: Making the case why 49ers should sign cornerback Kyle Fuller

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 31: Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Cleveland Brownsat Soldier Field on August 31, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 31: Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Cleveland Brownsat Soldier Field on August 31, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

2018 NFL free agency is set to commence on Mar. 12, in which teams can begin negotiating with players. The San Francisco 49ers will look to upgrade their secondary unit, and here’s why cornerback Kyle Fuller should be a top target in the market.

One of the San Francisco 49ers‘ biggest priorities this offseason is to address the cornerback position.

Although defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon showed promise during his rookie season, the 49ers’ overall pass defense struggled.

San Francisco only ranked 22nd best in pass defense and allowed the 11th most passing yards in 2017, according to Pro Football Reference:

Passing Defense Table
22San Francisco 49ers1634454463.23764275.0101.87.27.411.5235.393.9

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/27/2018.

Dontae Johnson started opposite of Witherspoon for most of the 2017 season, but found little success throughout the year. Pro Football Focus gave Johnson a 36.9 overall grade for his poor performance, and ranked him No. 118 among all NFL cornerbacks.

Due to their issues at cornerback, the 49ers need to add a solid starter who can effectively disrupt opposing receivers.

This year’s free-agent market will feature many standout cornerbacks from Malcolm Butler to Trumaine Johnson. With San Francisco’s large cap space, signing one of these high-caliber talents should not be much of an issue.

However, a free agent the 49ers should heavily consider is Kyle Fuller. If the Chicago Bears do not franchise tag or re-sign Fuller, pursuing this 6-foot, 194-pound cornerback makes sense for San Francisco.

What Fuller has accomplished

After missing the entire 2016 season, Fuller bounced back successfully the following year. Fuller recorded two interceptions and deflected 22 passes in 2017, per Pro Football Reference.

Pro Football Focus ranked Fuller the 21st best cornerback in the NFL in 2017, with an overall grade of 84.3. Out of 119 targets, Fuller also only allowed a 69.0 passer rating against opposing quarterbacks.

The 49ers would acquire one of the best deep-threat negators in the NFL if they happen to sign the Bears cornerback. In 2017, Fuller allowed the second lowest passer rating of 25.0 on deep throws, according to Pro Football Focus:

Fuller’s talents on the field do not come unnoticed. Especially against San Francisco in Week 13 of the 2017 season, Fuller displayed his impressive coverage skills.

Bears’ broadcaster Tom Thayer breaks down Fuller’s tape against the 49ers in an episode of Thayer’s Playbook:

On the first play, Fuller showed his toughness and ballhawking abilities after picking off quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass to receiver Louis Murphy Jr.

Aside from his impressive man and zone coverage, Fuller has also proven his hard-hitting style. The second play flaunted Fuller tackling running back Carlos Hyde to prevent him from getting the first down.

What Fuller will bring to San Francisco

Fuller has also shown his intelligence and awareness on the field, which makes it difficult for quarterbacks to throw in his direction.

If Fuller comes to San Francisco, the 49ers would instantly upgrade their secondary unit. Fuller not only has freakish athleticism, but also an ideal body type that would make him fit well with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme.

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Compared to some of the cornerbacks entering free agency this offseason, Fuller is still fairly young. Fuller might also come relatively cheaper than the top corners in the market, considering he only earned around $3 million last season.

Regardless, with their plethora of cap space, the 49ers should offer Fuller a contract if he hits free agency. San Francisco would get a solid cornerback in his prime and address its glaring positional need with Fuller on board.

Next: 2018 NFL Scouting Combine: Top 5 cornerbacks to watch

The 49ers would also acquire a smart and tough football player in Fuller if both parties agree to terms. Though, will Fuller be interested in signing with San Francisco? We’ll find out in two weeks.