Projected role, future with 49ers in 2020 and beyond
It’s pretty clear what the Niners expect out of Richard Sherman this season. They’ll want him to reassume that No. 1 cornerback role on the defense, also mentoring what’s still a relatively young crop of corners aside him.
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But the depth, particularly on the boundary, is questionable. Yes, No. 2 cornerback Emmanuel Moseley likely lines up opposite Sherman on the outside. Reserve corners Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson, Jason Verrett and DeMarkus Acy aren’t exactly promising options both as insurance for a would-be Sherman injury and/or long-term free-agent departure.
That brings up the question whether or not Sherman will return to San Francisco in 2021. With next year’s salary cap expected to decrease to $175 million and the 49ers no longer swimming in cap space, re-signing Sherman, who’ll be 33 years old, no longer seems like a guarantee.
If he does come back, one possible thought is to convert him to strong safety — a potential measure he already discussed, which also makes sense with the current starter, Jaquiski Tartt, also entering a contract year.
This is one potential route, freeing up Sherman to play closer to the box where strength and physicality mean a little more than on the outside. Or it’s just as possible the 49ers want him to stay as a bridge to a younger crop of cornerbacks in the coming years.
At any rate, San Francisco is expecting no less high-quality play from one of its top defensive playmakers from last season.
And there’s little reason to assume Sherman would provide anything less.