49ers find injured Darrell Luter Jr.'s replacement in NFL free agency

Based on what John Lynch said at the beginning of training camp, the 49ers don't expect rookie cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. back for some time.
Tennessee Titans cornerback Terrance Mitchell
Tennessee Titans cornerback Terrance Mitchell / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The 49ers are going to be without rookie cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. for a while, so they went out and inked this veteran defensive back.

There were plenty of takeaways from the San Francisco 49ers' initial press conference from day one of training camp, 2023.

Quarterback Brock Purdy, edge Nick Bosa and even punter Mitch Wishnowsky were part of the discussions.

And so was one of the Niners' rookie NFL Draft picks, cornerback Darrell Luter Jr., who unfortunately found himself on the physically unable-to-perform (PUP) list at the opening of rookie training camp a week ago.

On Tuesday, Lynch revealed it was a knee injury that will set Luter back. From the sound of Lynch's comments, it might be a while.

So, considering the importance of balancing out the depth chart and having the right number of bodies occupy each position from the first stringers down to the third- and sometimes fourth-string players, San Francisco elected to execute a simple but needed transaction.

49ers sign veteran free-agent cornerback Terrance Mitchell

Not long after Lynch and Shanahan met with the press, the 49ers announced they had signed veteran cornerback Terrance Mitchell to a one-year deal, a corresponding move not necessarily in response to Luter's injury but rather Wishnowsky going on the PUP list with a back issue that's not believed to be serious.

From the Niners' press release on the NFL free agency transaction:

"Mitchell (5-11, 191) was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round (254th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Throughout his eight-year NFL career with the Cowboys, Chicago Bears (2015), Kansas City Chiefs (2016-17), Cleveland Browns (2018-20), Houston Texans (2021) and Tennessee Titans (2022), he has appeared in 94 games (56 starts) and registered 305 tackles, 1.0 sack, nine interceptions, 63 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Mitchell has also played in four postseason contests (three starts), tallying 14 tackles and one pass defensed.

In 2022, Mitchell appeared in 11 games (five starts) with the Titans and finished with 39 tackles, one interception, four passes defensed and one forced fumble."

Read more: Brock Purdy is healthy and cleared for training camp, Mitch Wishnowsky isn't

The Northern California native who played his college ball at Oregon has bounced around the league a lot and just turned 31 years old, meaning he probably is going to be little more than a camp body for now.

That said, well-traveled cornerbacks can benefit the team in a number of ways, one of them providing some mentorship and guidance to an otherwise young secondary.

One of the older members of the incumbent secondary, safety Tashaun Gipson, joined the Niners in a similar fashion a year ago, being signed as an emergency option to fill in for an injured Jimmie Ward, and Gipson ended up starting for the rest of 2022 even after Ward returned.

Mitchell might not be on that kind of trajectory, but the Gipson example shows it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.

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