49ers need to prioritize their secondary in free agency

J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

In order for the 49ers to take the next step, they must address their secondary. This offseason they should consider prioritizing a cornerback.

The San Francisco 49ers may need to consider targeting upcoming free-agent cornerbacks like J.C. Jackson or veteran Stephon Gilmore this offseason in an effort to strengthen their secondary and overall defensive unit in 2022.

Obviously, defensive backs in the ilk of Jackson and Gilmore are going to come with hefty price tags. Various teams are going to be lining up in efforts to steal one of the two from their former teams when NFL free agency kicks off officially on March 16.

San Francisco has shown its aggressiveness in the past, and last offseason, it traded away multiple draft picks to grab quarterback Trey Lance.

This time on the defensive side of the ball, the 49ers should take a similar approach in terms of aggressiveness, and pursue game-changing cornerbacks in free agency.

49ers 2021 defensive woes

The Niners’ defensive secondary began the 2021 season off to a rough start. Week 1, in a win, they allowed quarterback Jared Goff to throw for 338 passing yards and three touchdowns in his debut game with the Detroit Lions. In the defense’s defense, San Francisco battled injuries early in the season, one being to the corner at the top of the depth chart, Emmanuel Moseley, and fellow cornerback Jason Verrett was lost for the year in that same game with a torn ACL.

Such injuries forced the 49ers to start veteran corner Josh Norman, his insufficient play eventually led him onto the bench. As the season progressed and personnel got healthier, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans eventually got the Niners secondary to recuperate, thanks to the emergence of the 2021 102nd overall draft pick, cornerback Ambry Thomas.

While Moseley and Thomas did what they could when their number was called upon, San Francisco must improve its secondary if it wants any chance of defending NFC West rival stud No. 1 receivers like D.K Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks), DeAndre Hopkins ( Arizona Cardinals), and newly crowned Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp ( Los Angeles Rams).

How 49ers can look to strengthen their secondary

Should the 49ers target a top corner the likes of Jackson or Gilmore, their secondary not only would improve. But by creating turnovers, they would potentially offer additional possessions to Lance.

In terms of creating turnovers, Jackson would be an excellent addition to the secondary. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has been a turnover machine for the New England Patriots, snatching 17 interceptions. With the potential Jackson could add to the Niners defense that’s already loaded up front, headlined by linebacker Fred Warner, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be willing to negotiate with Jackson in free agency.

Gilmore, on the other hand, was traded to the Carolina Panthers last offseason by the Patriots where he had a solid season coming off a torn quad. Gilmore has been one of the most respected corners in the NFL over the last few seasons, and in 2019, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, he caught two picks and earned his fourth trip into the Pro Bowl.

Adding Gilmore to San Francisco’s roster not only would improve the defense drastically, but it would manipulate opposing teams’ offensive schemes, offer a veteran presence to the younger players, and bring championship experience, as he became a world champion with the Patriots during the 2019 season alongside Jackson.

Read More: 5 under-the-radar free agents 49ers should add in 2022

Much has been implicated about some of the Niners’ potential moves this offseason, from decisions at the quarterback position, blockbuster trades, and re-signings of a few of the franchise’s key players.

Aggressively pursuing and securing a top corner should be one of the 49ers’ main priorities this offseason.

Even if they aren’t able to hit the home run and lure in former champions like Gilmore or Jackson, there are other viable options to address their secondary this free agency and in the 2022 NFL Draft.

One thing is for certain, It just must be addressed.

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