The 49ers could still use some help at cornerback this offseason, and NFL free agency has some low-cost options to bolster the depth chart.
Despite the San Francisco 49ers making some notable moves to ensure their defensive backfield remains somewhat intact heading into 2021, there’s still plenty of room to make more additions between now and the upcoming NFL Draft this April.
Cornerback was one of the Niners’ most pressing needs ahead of free agency, namely due to the sheer number of players hitting the open market. Since that point, general manager John Lynch brought back corners Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley and Dontae Johnson to pair with a number of depth options like Tim Harris and Ken Webster, the latter three likely competing for the final spots on the 53-man roster.
But Verrett and Moseley, both of whom can start, also have some serious question marks. For Verrett, it’s his injury history despite being almost fully healthy in a bounce-back 2020 campaign. Between 2016 and 2019, he appeared in just six regular-season games.
Moseley, meanwhile, has bounced back and forth between being a starter and reserve player.
While San Francisco will likely use at least one or two of its picks in the upcoming draft on a cornerback, going after some cheap and still-available corners on the free-agent market wouldn’t be a bad idea. Especially with the reported $20-plus million the 49ers have in cap space, according to Over the Cap.
Here are five names worth exploring with the first wave of NFL free agency now complete.
49ers Cornerback Target No. 5: Nickell Robey-Coleman
It’s still a bit unclear why the Niners haven’t made much more of an attempt to re-sign nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams, who remains a free agent as of this writing, despite him being an integral part of San Francisco’s defense the last four years.
Perhaps Williams already priced himself out of the 49ers’ comfort range. But whatever the rationale, the Niners could still use a starting-caliber slot-coverage option.
Former Philadelphia Eagles nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman might be a slight downgrade from Williams, at least in terms of overall impact and usage. But a down year in Philly, noted by his sub-par 53.3 Pro Football Focus coverage grade in 2020, was preceded by impressive efforts in previous years with the Los Angeles Rams where his coverage grade was regularly above 74.0.
On the cheap, Robey-Coleman could easily be a stopgap option for at least one season. And at 29 years old, it wouldn’t be out of the question for a team like San Francisco to consider a two-year deal either.