49ers roster news: Dontae Johnson, Jason Verrett get one-year deals

Defensive back Dontae Johnson #48 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Defensive back Dontae Johnson #48 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

On the San Francisco 49ers roster news front, the team announced one-year deals for veteran cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson, bolstering the depth.

The San Francisco 49ers probably like defensive backs Dontae Johnson and Jason Verrett much more than the fanbase, which is good enough a reason why the team announced on Monday it had brought both back on one-year deals for 2020.

Johnson, 28 years old and the Niners’ fourth-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, bounced back and forth off San Francisco’s roster last year, essentially being the 53rd player on the 53-man roster. In total, he appeared in seven games and made three tackles, primarily serving as a depth backup to the starting cast of Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon.

One has to assume that’ll be Johnson’s high-end role again in 2020, should he end up making the regular-season roster after training camp.

Verrett, meanwhile, was a low-risk, potentially high-reward free-agent signing a year ago. Drafted the same year as Johnson — No. 25 overall by the San Diego Chargers — Verrett had a promising start to his pro career, only to see it derailed by a slew of injuries.

Despite a 2015 Pro Bowl nod, the former TCU defensive back appeared in just five regular-season games between 2016 and 2018. Last season, hampered by an ankle injury in training camp, Verrett managed to get on the field for only a handful of snaps in the 49ers’ Week 3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers after Witherspoon suffered a foot sprain.

Verrett’s on-field efforts then resulted in a Steelers touchdown, and he was subsequently pulled and found himself back on injured reserve shortly thereafter.

49ers adding both players for depth, competition?

Now, the question is what role both Johnson and Verrett will hold this offseason, what their re-signings mean for San Francisco’s pending efforts in the 2020 NFL Draft and both players’ chances to make the 55-man roster later this summer.

Sherman and Witherspoon are both entering contract years, yes. But it doesn’t appear likely the Niners view either Johnson or Verrett as long-term replacements. As far as depth and training camp competition, retaining players who know the defense and terminology, the moves make a lot of sense. San Francisco doesn’t exactly have a lot of veteran-level talent at cornerback elsewhere on the roster.

Yet retaining both players could also point to the possibility the 49ers aren’t planning on using one of their five day-three draft picks on a cornerback, which is considered a pretty big position of need. These moves surely won’t hinder a decision to use one of San Francisco’s two first-round selections on a defensive back. Perhaps only those late-round picks.

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Either way, don’t expect Johnson and/or Verrett to automatically make the roster, especially if the financial portions suggest both players are merely low-budget add-ons to bolster the depth.