49ers roster: 5 most underrated moves of 2021 offseason

Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Dontae Johnson, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive back Dontae Johnson (48) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

While the 49ers signing Alex Mack and drafting Trey Lance were highlight moves of the offseason, these five other transactions were important, too.

The San Francisco 49ers‘ 2021 offseason is going to be defined by one single transaction: the move up to No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.

To a lesser extent, re-signing left tackle Trent Williams while tabbing veteran center Alex Mack in NFL free agency were also highlight-type moves that were fully intended to maximize the offense, while some additional defensive additions and re-signs certainly didn’t fly under the radar.

At the same time, though, many of the moves executed by general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t receive anywhere near the publicity yet could prove to be vitally important once the 2021 season rolls around.

Whether these ones are for crucial depth or the ability to plug in a less-heralded player into a prominent role where he could thrive, let’s take a look at five underrated moves that could pay significant dividends this upcoming season.

No. 5: 49ers re-sign depth cornerback Dontae Johnson

Three key moves were made to retain some of San Francisco’s cornerback depth: re-signing Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Emmanuel Moseley as the team’s starting trio.

The hope for the 49ers is these players start fully and enjoy a clean slate of health. But given Verrett’s injury track record, plus the fact Williams missed eight games last year, there was a need to stockpile some additional depth.

With veteran corner Richard Sherman remaining unsigned, an under-the-radar re-addition was veteran cornerback Dontae Johnson on a one-year deal.

True, the Niners want to see their two drafted rookie corners, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, thrive. But with a tendency of young defensive backs struggling to transition to the NFL ranks, it always makes sense to have a decent stopgap fill-in player to plug any void that may arise during the season because of injury.

At 29 years old, Johnson isn’t a long-term answer. And while the fanbase might not necessarily be enamored with him, San Francisco has appreciated his versatility to cover both the boundary and over the slot, and Pro Football Focus recognized his 2020 efforts relatively well, giving him a solid 67.7 overall grade last year — more than adequate for a backup-type player.

Should the 49ers suffer any modest injury attrition at cornerback this season, Johnson will likely be the first name called up.