Over the past couple weeks, I've made my preference pretty clear when it comes to which free agents are more important than the others. While I'm a fan of Dashon Goldson and what he brings to the table, I'm not a fan of overpaying for mistake-laden football in between the big hits and interceptions simply because he's a bit younger than another player at a more important position. That's right - cornerback is infinitely more important than safety, and a top-tier corner has always been more valuable, unless your name is Ed Reed or Troy Polalamamlamlalalalaualualu or however that fellow with the hair spells it.
That being said, we're not here to make a comparison (even though I just did), especially not between players at different positions. What we're to do is grade Carlos Rogers based on his performance in 2011. Rogers came to the 49ers after Nate Clements was let go to pursue other options and to free the 49ers of his unwieldy contract. After being in on the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes for a short while, the 49ers seemingly "settled" on Rogers.
He turned out to play much, much better than Asomugha, whether you blame the latter's screwups on the terrible defensive staff in Philadelphia or just him regressing. That being said, the 49ers went with Rogers on a one-year deal, when he couldn't lock up a longer one elsewhere. They gave him a middling contract and he was immediately put into the No. 1 slot.
Some questioned that placement, mostly because he couldn't snare an interception to save his life. Or at least, that was the consensus when he played with the Washington Redskins. The guy was rarely heard of around the league, but that's both a good thing and a bad thing. How many highlight reels did you see of Rogers picking off an interception? Not many. How many lowlight reels did you see of Rogers getting beat badly en route to a thrilling TD by the opposing team? Also not many.
If you asked a Redskins fan how he felt about Rogers, it was either someone talking about how he was decent in coverage or someone talking about how they wanted to crucify him for his missed opportunities. You can run a quick Google search and find multiple forums with fans talking about how much they hate him for dropping a game-sealing interception.
One thing I really like is how the readers here at Niners Nation handled the signing. We were just teased Asomugha and then treated to a guy who, by most accounts, would disappoint in the end. That's rough. But a lot of you (I don't remember my stance, but I'm pretty sure I liked the signing initially) took the signing with decent enough expectations. The prevailing thought seemed to be "better than Nate Clements," and it turned out much better for us than expected.
Rogers came in and immediately shut down receivers. He had some poor games, including the first half of the game against the New York Giants in the playoffs - that one hurt. He adjusted at the half and shut down Victor Cruz from then on out though, and should be commended for that. In short, you can say he did his job in that game when the going got tough. It was lost through other means.
Anyway, Rogers was covering like a mad man - often on a team's most versatile or fastest receiver, despite a lack of top end speed. He just beat them with superior positioning, and was one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL. The biggest plus? Rogers suddenly figured out that he has to, you know, secure his fingers around the football so it stays in his hand.
This shocking revelation led to many picks at important times and generally did a lot to make what really is a generally weak 49ers secondary seem a lot less so. The 49ers have nothing after Rogers, and it's my belief that they absolutely need him next season to have a chance to do the same kind of thing they did this past season. I think he had a fantastic season with the change of scenery and I don't see that changing with another year. You can go ahead and make of that what you will, but the voting is up to you!