Former Heisman Trophy winner and long-time NFL defensive back Charles Woodson will reportedly be released by Green Bay today, according to multiple reports. Woodson's cap number and salary were too much for the Packers in 2013 and the team has shown a willingness to go younger at key positions in the past.
Amid this news is the question of whether or not the 49ers should make a run at Woodson, who spent his early career as a corner but has moved to safety for the last several seasons. The 49ers have had issues in coverage with their safeties at times, and Dashon Goldson is a free agent as soon as the league year opens March 12th, though many expect that the 49ers could franchise-tag him one more time if a long-term deal cannot be reached.
Donte Whitner has shown great intimidation and physicality at the other safety spot, but has had major lapses in coverage, even against tight ends who are not necessarily "speedsters". Whitner appears to lack a natural feel in the pass game, often in the wrong spot or simply not staying with his man (as we've seen in the end zone a few times recently).
I'm not necessarily advocating the 49ers part ways with either of these guys, though. In fact, I think that Woodson could be brought in to supplement them as a passing-down specialist. Consider that Goldson and Whitner hardly ever left the field this past season, be it run downs or 3rd-and-forever downs. What if Woodson were to rotate in for Whitner in sub packages like Nickel and Dime, where coverage skills are more important than crushing hits and run support?
Woodson is also a crafty veteran who could mentor the team's young safeties, including a potential draft pick at the position, much like Randy Moss did this past season. That type of leadership would be key at a position where there is currently little-to-no depth behind the presumptive starters.
The bottom line in this whole "what-if" scenario, however, may very well be money. Will some team be willing to pay north of $5 million dollars per year to the 37 year old Woodson? If not, the 49ers could scoop him up on a contract that allows him to play for a contender (which he's rumored to have told his agent was a huge factor for him) yet helps ease the burden of his cap figure.
The 49ers have signed guys like Braylon Edwards, Randy Moss, and even Whitner himself for reasonable contracts after they didn't see huge interest elsewhere. Perhaps Woodson could be the defense's version of Moss, a mentor and spot player who just wants to give back and try to get one more ring.
I'd be all in favor of this if it does end up happening.