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Labeled a weak link entering the season, the 49ers' secondary proved to be anything but that.
Calling any part of that defense "weak" would be a big mistake.
As a matter of fact, the secondary helped opposing quarterbacks to a 73.6 rating and forced an astounding 23 interceptions. They were solid in coverage and even better as sure tacklers. There was an occasional big play, but the unit showed resilience in bending yet not breaking.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers was an All-Pro level, Tarell Brown developed into a solid starter and rookie Chris Culliver looks like a future star. All three are talented, but depth is always a concern.
The 49ers must do all they can to equip their secondary with quality players in order to compete with explosive teams like the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, who at any moment can line up four dangerous receivers.
Now, as the team is fully emerged in the offseason, there are decisions to make on key members of this secondary. Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson, team leaders with six picks a piece, are free agents and surely in high demand after a stellar year.
1. Re-Sign Rogers to a Three-Year Deal: Rogers was a shutdown corner and fully deserving of a new deal, but the team must be cautious. Rogers, already 31 years old, is losing more and more steps as the days go by. He'll want a deal approaching six or more years, but the 49ers should keep the offer to a maximum of four. Anything longer and he'll be too big of a liability.
2. Franchise Goldson: Goldson had a career season with plenty of crushing hits, but still struggles in coverage. His aggressive play, though fun to watch, has been the cause of too many big plays for opposing offenses. If he wants a long-term deal, then it may end up elsewhere. If he wants to stay, franchise him and see if he can make necessary improvements.
3. Use a High Draft Pick On a Corner: San Francisco, myself included, would love to see Janoris Jenkins fall into their laps at the end of the first round. The former Florida Gator, who transferred to North Alabama after being kicked out, is arguably the best corner in this year's draft. He was impressive during the Senior Bowl and solidified himself as first-round talent. Character concerns, however, may drop him more than it should. If that happens the 49ers will be there waiting to select their future shutdown corner.