49ers bolster cornerback depth by re-signing Dontae Johnson
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers have plenty of cornerback depth concerns entering 2021, but those are alleviated somewhat by the re-sign deal for Dontae Johnson.
Veteran cornerback Dontae Johnson is coming back to the San Francisco 49ers.
The details aren’t yet official, and the terms and length of his contract remain unknown.
Nevertheless, Johnson shared the news on his Instagram account (h/t @OurSF49ers on Twitter) he was coming back after bouncing on and off the Niners roster in 2019 and appearing in 14 games for them last season.
Johnson, whom San Francisco selected with a fourth-round pick back in the 2014 NFL Draft, bounced around the league a bit after being a full-time starter for the 49ers under then first-year head coach Kyle Shanahan in 2017.
To date, the 29-year-old Johnson has 184 tackles with two interceptions and 24 passes broken up.
Dontae Johnson helps solve some 49ers depth-chart concerns
The Niners already re-signed cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley at the very beginning of NFL free agency but were poised to lose other corners, Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon, to the open market. Meanwhile, nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams remains unsigned.
Witherspoon, another former starter pushed into a reserve role, already inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, while Sherman remains a free agent.
Verrett’s injury history mandates San Francisco stockpile some reserve defensive backs. And the fact the 49ers have yet to re-sign Williams or find an adequate replacement could prompt them to do something with Johnson they experimented with last year: play him at nickel.
Those results weren’t overly impressive, although Johnson finished 2020 with a respectable 65.2 pass-coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
In addition to his 14 games played for the Niners last season, Johnson started three of them. So while San Francisco might not be looking for a regular starting-caliber effort from the former NC State standout, at least Shanahan and Co. can take some comfort knowing Johnson has filled this void in the past.
And the team won’t be under quite as much pressure for the rest of the offseason to bolster the depth behind starters like Verrett and Moseley.