If you're the New York Jets, it may seem to early to plan for the 2014 draft. However, every successful organization started doing it years ago. The 49ers were criticized for not drafting a Cornerback higher than Marcus Cooper in the 7th round this year (and you can bet they're upset he didn't pass through waivers to sign on our practice squad), but it was clear that their plan was to draft one, if not more than one, in 2014. Below is the list of our current CB roster, their ages and when they'll be free agents.
Carlos Rogers - 32 – 2016
Nnamdi Asomugha - 32 – 2014
Tarell Brown - 28 – 2014
Eric Wright - 28 – 2014
Perrish Cox - 26 – 2014
Tramaine Brock - 26 – 2014
Chris Culliver - 25 – 2015
A few things are obvious here. Not only is our CB group among the oldest in our entire lineup, but their contracts are nearly all expiring after this season. Obviously skill declines with age to some extent, but the greater issue here is value. It's unlikely we'll be able to resign Brown as he'll command more money than we're able to afford, regardless if he gets the $2 million he missed out on or not. Cox and Brock on the other hand could be resigned, but will have to step up their production or settle for salaries close to the veteran minimum - neither of which is a definite thing.
Asomugha and Wright could both stay with the team, but again, it's contingent on their performances this season. To a smaller extent, it also depends on their willingness to take a below market deal even if they do improve. If they both prove capable, it's possible they might give the 49ers a hometown discount because of their affiliation to the Bay Area. Asomugha might also be willing to repeat a similar cut rate deal because of his desire to see the postseason more than once. Wright's character problems also make it likely he'll accept a lower paid deal. However, they both have question marks in terms of their performance. It is worth noting that both players were cut from their previous teams because their production waned. Again, there are no assurances to be had here.
That leaves Rogers and Culliver. What can be said for certain was that if it weren't for the guaranteed money, Carlos Rogers would have been cut from the team already. Last years performance didn't match his salary by a long shot. Jason Hurley from Over The Cap has wrote that his contract is the worst on the Niners books. In 2014 his dead money is "only" 2.98 million, meaning the Niners could save 14 million over his remaining two seasons by cutting him. Unless he returns to his former glory, do not expect him to stay on this team – and even then, it's iffy.
Culliver on the other hand is signed through 2015. He's the only sure bet to stay with this team. Though, It's unlikely he'll develop into the starting caliber Corner in the next few years, especially so because of his recent injury. Nevertheless, he's a great value for the play we expect out of him.
All of this leaves a ton of questions. It's a distinct possible that everyone steps up this season and that we can put off drafting a Cornerback for another year or two. That scenario doesn't appear outside of the realm of possibility after the secondary's preseason production this year.
However, Trent Baalke and Co. are not the types to simply hope things will work out. What is evident however, is that going into the 2013 season it appears that CB (and possibly SS) is the only position of real concern for 2014. The 49ers Front Office has clearly planned ahead, and for that we can be grateful.