49ers free agency: Jason Verrett deal a win-win for both sides
The San Francisco 49ers came into the offseason with a glaring problem at cornerback. All their starters from the previous year were impending free agents. For a team that looked to have cap issues and a plethora of free agents at many critical positions, it was imperative the Niners handle the position.
After re-signing Emmanuel Moseley to a two-year $10.5 million deal, locking up the second or even potentially nickel cornerback position, it was onto the bigger problems: getting a CB1. Richard Sherman isn’t going to be back, and Ahkello Witherspoon was not the answer at finding the bonafide lockdown corner.
That left Jason Verrett, a player who has dealt with injuries on a previously inconceivable scale (with multiple ACL and Achilles injuries, not to mention further complications on those injuries), but in his last two healthy seasons played at a Pro Bowl level. He was, without question, the best player in the San Francisco secondary, and he finally seemed to put his injury woes besides him.
Verrett’s contract negotiations were always going to be a fascinating question of health versus production. No one can deny how good he was in 2020, no one should, but the uncertainty of whether he could handle another full year was always going to be looming.
Another, perhaps more apparent impact was the reduction in the 2021 salary cap, which would already depress the free agency market.
So Verrett chose to re-sign with the 49ers on a one-year, $5.5 million deal that has incentives that can take it up to $6.5 million, as first reported by Josina Anderson and later confirmed by John Lynch himself:
This deal is a compromise for both parties, Verrett more so than the Niners, but it also has upside for both sides.
It is a rare win-win.
Why the deal works for the 49ers
As mentioned above, the 49ers needed a bonafide starter at cornerback. Verrett was their best player in the secondary, he knew the system and played exceptionally well in it, and he had trust in their facilities during rehab.
Although I’m sure the 49ers would have loved to lock in Verrett for multiple years at this type of price point, which is dramatically below market value for a player of Verrett’s caliber, they still managed to sign a player for a price point below what he should be earning while simultaneously not burdening themselves with the risk of an injury for long-term consequences.
If Verrett proves to be healthy and stays at his current level of play, San Francisco can pay him next year at a salary more fitted for his talents.
Why the deal works for Jason Verrett
Verrett had an option for long-term security with a multi-year offer, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport, but he instead chose to bet on himself in hopes of a larger payday in 2022:
My guess, and this is purely speculation, the multi-year offer likely didn’t have the AAV (Average Annual Value) or the guarantees high enough for Verrett to forego free agency next year. With the looming shadow of his injury history and inability to string healthy seasons in a row, as well as a decreased cap, it’s likely the multi-year deal didn’t reach the value Verrett wanted.
He now can play for a scheme he knows he excels in with a staff he trusts to care for his health. If he plays well and stays healthy, Verrett enters the 2022 free agency pool as a blue-chip player in a field flush with cash from a likely cap explosion.
There’s an implicit risk, obviously, but Verrett can take that risk, get a respectable salary increase this year while he’s at it, and bet on himself for a large payday.
In a sport where teams strive to have control over a player with little leeway, this type of personal freedom is rare and valuable.
Neither side got what they completely wanted. Verrett would probably have loved a much higher contract value for more years, and the 49ers would likely have wanted to lock him in at this type of bargain rate for multiple years.
But, despite both compromising, both have a chance to come out from this deal in a winning situation. In a sport where it seems everyone is trying to win a deal, sometimes the best deals are the ones where everyone wins.