49ers roster 2021: A healthy Jason Verrett makes all the difference

Jason Verrett #22 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Jason Verrett #22 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

If the 49ers get another healthy and productive season out of Jason Verrett, their secondary won’t be as big a liability as some may think in 2021.

During the 2020 season, his first fully healthy campaign since 2015, veteran cornerback Jason Verrett started the year as the San Francisco 49ers‘ No. 2 boundary cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.

But with Sherman dealing with injuries all year, Verrett effectively became the Niners’ top cornerback.

And that role is expected to continue into 2021.

Verrett re-signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal to stay with San Francisco, which is quite the bargain deal. Yet both Verrett and the 49ers are fully aware of his lengthy injury history, which limited him to just six regular-season games between 2016 and 2019 with the Niners and Los Angeles Chargers.

Jason Verrett Defense & Fumbles Table
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2 yr2 yrSFO14132000760501020

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/15/2021.

The 30 year old might be due to cash in on a substantial free-agent deal in 2022. In order to do so, however, he’ll need to stay healthy and remain just as productive as he was a season ago.

San Francisco is banking on it, too. With a number of questions about their cornerbacking depth, the 49ers better hope Verrett stays available for the bulk of 2021.

Let’s take a look at why Verrett is so important to the Niners this season.

Why 49ers are counting upon Jason Verrett so much in 2021

There isn’t much questioning about Verrett being San Francisco’s No. 1 cornerback this season.

Last year, Pro Football Focus awarded Verrett with a notable 77.6 overall grade. Yet the bigger kicker is Verrett allowed only a 76.3 passer rating when targeted on just 63 credited targets.

That’s an average of 4.5 targets per game, which can be pretty high. But when considering the other options, Verrett better be out there on the field.

His presumed opposite-number teammate, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, surrendered a 99.8 passer rating on 55 targets last year, per PFF, and one figures that number would increase if Verrett is healthy and Moseley is starting.

But it would get much, much worse for the 49ers secondary if Verrett is absent, Moseley winds up being the No. 1 cornerback and depth options, such as Dontae Johnson or Ambry Thomas, are suddenly forced into starting roles.

With Verrett on the field, it’s simple: The Niners defense is substantially better.

Why 49ers should worry about Jason Verrett in 2021

Aside from the fact Verrett has now hit that 30-year-old threshold where most defensive backs tend to see a decline in performance, it’s impossible to get around his injury history.

An ankle injury limited Verrett to just two snaps in 2019, and those snaps with San Francisco weren’t pretty: a defensive penalty and a touchdown allowed.

The previous year with the Chargers, Verrett tore his Achilles in training camp. Knee injuries also cut into his 2016 and 2017 campaigns, too.

There’s a substantial reason to be worried about Verrett’s health history going into 2021. And while last year might be a sign he can stay healthy, the previous evidence suggests he’s more likely to revert back into being an oft-injured player despite his numerous upsides.

Projected impact with 49ers, long-term outlook

Verrett’s career is potentially at a turning point.

Should he wind up having another year similar to 2020, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see him cash in on what could be his last big payout as an NFL pro. That’s obviously what he’s gunning for, although it’s anyone’s guess whether or not the 49ers would want to consider re-signing him beyond this season.

Especially with the rookie, Thomas, waiting in the folds.

The Niners certainly understand Verrett’s health concerns, and at this point, they don’t have any need to commit to him long term.

Read More: Jason Verrett’s contract with 49ers is a win-win for both sides

If anything, Verrett is trying to prove in back-to-back years how he can be a highly productive defender.

San Francisco does care about that production, though, and the rest of the team’s outside cornerbacking depth isn’t thick enough to make up for him being absent for any elongated period of time.

For both Verrett and the 49ers, health is going to be a major concern, and the secondary is counting upon it.

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