Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Rogers gets fired up after a Tarell Brown interception.
Injuries notwithstanding, there has been an excess of post-draft activity at the cornerback position, which has shown a lack of conviction on behalf of the coaches, particularly Ed Donatell and Vic Fangio. For all their successes, the 49ers appear fairly disorganized on the back end of their defense.
Here is an up-to-date timeline of the 49ers’ offseason activity involving cornerbacks:
- (7/18/13) There is curiosity over the team’s long-term plans for Tarell Brown, who is in a contract year.
- (7/18/13) 49ers will not convert Chris Culliver to safety.
- (7/19/13) The rumor mill says the 49ers don’t want to keep Carlos Rogers.
- (7/19/13) Free-agent signee Nnamdi Asomugha is officially on the bubble.
- (7/19/13) 49ers trade a conditional late-round pick to the Buccaneers for CB Eric Wright.
- (7/19/13) 49ers waive undrafted rookie CB Lowell Rose.
- (7/22/13) Wright fails the 49ers’ physical, voiding the trade and prompting his release by Tampa Bay.
- (7/23/13) 49ers want Carlos Rogers to take a pay cut.
- (7/23/13) 49ers do not rule out Wright’s return.
- (7/25/13) $2 million escalator voided in Tarell Brown’s contract, eliminating two-thirds of his 2013 salary.
- (7/25/13) Brown fires his agent Brian Overstreet after failing to communicate the workout clauses in his deal.
- (8/1/13) Culliver has a torn ACL and will miss the 2013 season.
- (8/2/13) 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thinks Asomugha is hot and cold.
- (8/2/13) GM Trent Baalke reportedly spent time with Eric Wright again.
While some of it is coincidental, the overall activity at CB is quite irregular.
In all likelihood, the 49ers discovered a fault during their self-scouting process that was bothersome, but nothing they could move on right away. Knowing the 49ers were counting on Brown and Culliver to be the backbone of the secondary as their featured outside corners—and the only player the 49ers would be held check by is Rogers because of his new deal—it leads us to where the problem truly lies.
As the 49ers' biggest name corner, Carlos Rogers is 32 years of age, floundering and due the team’s second-highest cap figure for 2013, via Spotrac. All the while, their most consistent cover guy, Tarell Brown, is an ascending homegrown talent in his prime, earning less than a lot of rookies in the league right now. And he’s in a contract year.
Add in the loss of Culliver and this entire situation is topsy-turvy.
Having kept Eric Wright in their back pocket, the 49ers appear to be exploring low-cost solutions to this problem. By introducing another element to this equation, the ‘Niners can theoretically cut ties with Rogers (if he refuses to restructure), reimburse Brown and count on Wright to rotate in until the organization can draft a long-term solution in 2014.
Doing this would wipe an overpaid player from their books and open up options, like extensions for Tarell Brown and Mike Iupati. And considering Rogers allowed a 115.6 QB rating when targeted anywhere but the nickel, via Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus, Wright could prove a more versatile corner that plays better outside.
One thing is for sure: this dilemma has not come to a head yet.
Honestly, it would be wise to expect more activity in the coming weeks, wherein the key transaction will either be the release of Rogers or the restructuring of his contract, proceeded by the potential addition of Wright. The former Browns, Lions and Bucs defender is a Bay Area native and outspoken Faithful who may be willing to take a hometown discount and, again, looks like the better option on the field.
Moreover, if CB Nnamdi Asomugha can find his groove two years removed from All-Pro honors, this becomes an even more viable course of action.
San Francisco can have Brown and Asomugha on the boundary, with Wright rotating in with the starters and featured in the nickel. Meanwhile, cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock are more than reliable for as far down the depth chart as they are. Altogether, this is a new-look secondary that has the potential to be an upgrade over Rogers, while allowing the 49ers to get better elsewhere.