49ers should prioritize K’Waun Williams over Jason Verrett
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers face plenty of tough decisions in NFL free agency, and one of them includes deciding between corners K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett.
While the bulk of the San Francisco 49ers‘ NFL free agency concerns this offseason have centered around left tackle and eight-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams, along with a lesser-degree concern whether or not fullback Kyle Juszczyk will return, an equally problematic situation is what general manager John Lynch and Co. will do with the large number of cornerbacks likely departing this offseason.
Among the two defensive backs who could leave on the free-agent market are Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams, both of whom played key roles for the Niners’ fifth-best defense in 2020.
In an ideal world, San Francisco would be able to re-sign both pending free agents. But the 49ers aren’t entering an ideal scenario this offseason. With just over $12.5 million in cap space this offseason, per Over the Cap, the Niners are going to be awfully limited in what they do to retain some of their own important free agents.
It’s possible San Francisco will be forced to decide between Verrett and Williams, not keeping them both.
And if it comes down to that, the 49ers would be wiser to re-sign Williams.
49ers must be cautious with Jason Verrett’s injury history
2020 was a watershed year for the 29-year-old Verrett, who started off his career as a highly touted defensive back out of TCU with the San Diego Chargers, even managing his first Pro Bowl nod a year after he was drafted in 2014.
Yet the injury problems started in 2016, and Verrett would be limited to just six regular-season games between that year and including his first season in San Francisco, 2019, where he saw just two snaps before going back on injured reserve.
All that turned around in 2020, yes, as Verrett looked every part the Pro Bowl-caliber player, earning an impressive 77.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in the process.
Verrett was thrilled with his comeback, understandably so, yet the side effect is he might have played himself out from a new contract with the 49ers. Particularly when considering their limited cap resources. And even if Verrett is willing to return on a team-friendly deal, the Niners have to be more than willing to admit banking on him staying healthy again in 2021 would be a sizable risk.
One which San Francisco might not be able to afford.
K’Waun Williams should come cheaper to 49ers anyway
Williams, too, had his share of injuries in 2020, being limited to just eight games due to a variety of setbacks.
Yet the 29 year old has a much better injury-related pedigree when compared to Verrett, having missed just five regular-season games since joining the 49ers in 2017. And as far as the on-field grading goes, 66.2 overall PFF grade is comparable enough to that of Verrett even though they play two entirely different positions within the secondary.
Speaking of the difference between boundary and nickel cornerbacks, though, it’s important to note nickel backs almost never command the same kind of money on the open market as outside corners receive.
Even if the injury records were identical, too, it would make much more financial sense for the Niners to focus their re-sign efforts on Williams instead of Verrett.
There’s still a chance San Francisco can find a way to retain both, which would be idea. But if the 49ers are forced to pick between one or the other, Williams should be the target over Verrett.