Yesterday afternoon, we learned that San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors and three felonies connected to a hit-and-run incident in San Jose. The incident occurred around 10 in the morning, and Culliver was still in custody as of 4:30 in the afternoon. At some point he will be processed out and will have a court date set to start dealing with the charges.
It's tough to tell how the court situation will play out given how early in the process we currently stand. We've heard the police report, but we've heard nothing from Culliver on the incident. There will likely be a second version of events. Maybe it was a mistake that escalated, maybe he's just cold-hearted. I'd like to hope it's the former, but who knows what it all means.
As soon as word got out on this, people were quickly demanding the team release him. Based on what we've heard thus far, this would appear to be his second knuckle-headed decision of the last two years. He made the idiotic comments to Artie Lange back before the Super Bowl last year, and now he's followed that up with what comes across as an insanely idiotic sequence of events with the hit-and-run.
The question is where this goes from here. While people are demanding the team dump him now, I really don't see that happening. Well, at least not right away. It might look good to the public to cut him and move on, but I don't see this front office as one to act in such a rash manner. They will assess the situation, and make what I would hope is a reasoned decision.
If the 49ers front office and coaching staff think he can contribute to the team, AND they think he can actually get on the straight and narrow, I have no doubt they would give him another chance. While it is easy to get high and mighty when another team has off-the-field problems with a player, it happens to every team. Every team has a player who does something knuckle-headed, or has a player with a past, or whatever. The 49ers dealing with the Culliver situation are not the first team to go through this, they won't be the last team, and this will not be the last time somebody on the 49ers does something stupid.
This is not to say the 49ers won't unload Culliver sooner rather than later. They may just decide he's a knucklehead and is not worth the trouble. If they do that, they have a couple options. They could trade him, or they could release him. In either instance, they would save $1,431,000 in cap room.
Culliver is entering the final year of his contract, and there have been reports the team was prepared to start contract extension talks with him soon. This would seemingly put that on hold. Maybe the team still extends him, maybe they decide to wait and see what the coming year brings, or maybe they just release him. They have a host of options at their disposal.
If the 49ers decide to part ways with Culliver, they have a few options to consider. In terms of free agency, old friend Carlos Rogers remains on the market, as do Champ Bailey and Dimitri Patterson. If they were to bring in a veteran, I suspect we'd end up seeing them try and bring Rogers back to town.
Whether they bring in a veteran or not, they also have plenty of draft picks at their disposal. More importantly, this is considered by many to be a fairly deep draft for cornerbacks. Whether they keep or release Chris Culliver, the 49ers will be looking to add cornerbacks. They likely needed at least one already, and a second is likely on the docket. They've got 11 draft picks, including 6 of the top 100. There are plenty of cornerbacks to be had, and the 49ers have the picks to be aggressive in getting the guys they want.
Culliver has two seasons of play, plus a third of watching with the 49ers, so this is not a simple replacement. Prior to this incident, the team seemed to provide him with a vote of confidence when they released Rogers and did not attempt to re-sign Tarell Brown. It seems obvious they figured he could make strong contributions coming back from his ACL injury.
Now, we're left in limbo as to what the 49ers will do. It's too early to tell exactly how they view this situation, beyond the embarrassment it brings to the team. Maybe they'll get the info they need on this incident, and then release him. Maybe they prefer to work with him and try and help him get his head on straight. Maybe it's some mysterious door No. 3. My gut says he does not get released at this point.
My gut says the team tries to work with him on it. I do still think they'll bring in competition at the cornerback position, and for now, I don't think we see him get a contract extension this offseason. Even if it was just a stupid mistake that escalated way out of control, it's still idiotic for that to happen. Now we'll just wait and see what the repercussions are.