Oft-injured 49ers cornerback Jason Verrett might be facing his final chance to resurrect his career at the NFL level this training camp.
The promising defensive back out of TCU was initially selected by the San Diego Chargers No. 25 overall back in the 2014 NFL Draft, and for the first couple of years, signs were pointing to Verrett being a tremendous addition to what was a blossoming Chargers secondary.
Yet the injuries started to pile on. Fair or not, that’s now cemented into Verrett’s reputation.
Verrett suffered a shoulder injury his rookie season before flashing that promise with a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. Yet a torn ACL derailed his 2016 efforts, and both knee and Achilles injuries prematurely ended what would have been bounce-back campaigns in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
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The Northern California native got a chance to resurrect his career with the Niners in 2019, yet an ankle injury hindered his return to the field. When he did manage to finally make an appearance during San Francisco’s Week 3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it wasn’t pretty. Verrett was immediately flagged for pass interference, then gave up a touchdown the subsequent snap before being removed from the game.
The 49ers placed Verrett back on IR shortly thereafter, yet somewhat surprisingly brought him back on a one-year deal during the offseason, largely due to the team’s questionable depth behind the starting boundary duo of Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley.
Considering Verrett’s injury history and the fact he’s appeared in only six regular-season games dating back to 2016, it’s safe to say his 2020 efforts will be make-or-break ones in terms of his once-promising NFL career.
Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series looks at what he’ll have to do in order to get back on track.
Why Jason Verrett improves with 49ers in 2020
Simply put, the best thing Verrett can do to make an impact this season is stay healthy. While it’s not totally fair to criticize a player for having the injury bug, it’s still important to recognize it. Verrett’s unfortunate reputation as an injury-prone player isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Especially this late in his career.
Verrett still is only 29 years old, however, and it isn’t as if those skills flashed in 2015 simply disappeared. When he’s healthy and on his game, Verrett has the ability to be a top cornerback, playing almost exclusively on the boundary despite his shortish 5-foot-10 frame.
San Francisco isn’t going to ask Verrett to be an every-down cornerback, at least not right away. So one might assume Verrett should be able to avoid the rigors of a frequently used defender, only filling in to spell starters and to come in during times of injury attrition above him on the depth chart.
That’s about as good a scenario for Verrett to bounce back.
Why Jason Verrett regresses with 49ers in 2020
The Niners bringing Verrett back for one more chance tells you the level of expectation they have for him. It’s not much.
Verrett didn’t exactly seize his limited opportunity last year. And while he certainly wasn’t physically ready to handle coverage duties during that Week 3 performance, one can certainly question whether or not he’ll even be close to ready again in 2020 after missing so much of his prime while recovering from injury.
The lack of offseason workouts before training camp hurts here, too, as Verrett wasn’t afforded the luxury of getting his proverbial “football legs” back underneath him. Plus, San Francisco already has eyes on other cornerbacks pegged as potential starters and immediate depth, meaning Verrett will likely see third- and fourth-string reps during camp.
That won’t afford him too many chances to showcase his value.
Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster
Verrett will count for up to $887,500 against San Francisco’s salary cap this season, and the Niners would have just $10,000 in dead money if he’s cut.
Based on that alone, it’s pretty safe to assume the Niners merely took a low-risk flier on him being able to stay healthy and contribute. If he’s not able to do so in training camp, it’s almost guaranteed he’ll be off the roster by Week 1.
Even if he’s able to stay healthy, however, Verrett will be looking up at other corners in addition to Sherman and Moseley. Ahkello Witherspoon is there. So are Dontae Johnson and the undrafted rookie, DeMarkus Acy, among others.
Verrett will have to outperform at least one of those latter names to stand a chance, and there’s a possibility the Niners would elect to go with more reliable options anyway even if Verrett appears to be the better option on the field.
Why this matters for Verrett, though, is because it doesn’t seem likely another team would be willing to give Verrett another shot if he’s unable to make the cut by Week 1.
As such, his NFL career could come to an unfortunate close before it ever truly got going.