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49ers free agents 2015: Predictions for Perrish Cox

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The San Francisco 49ers have 15 unrestricted free agents this season. It's time to start predicting what might happen to each of them. We start with cornerback Perrish Cox.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers head toward free agency with 19 players scheduled to hit some form of free agency. They have 15 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents, and two exclusive rights free agents. Since we have five weeks left until free agency gets going, I thought it would be worth going over each unrestricted free agent and considering what their future might hold come March. I'm focusing on UFAs for now because RFAs and ERFAs generally re-sign barring unusual circumstances.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at each unrestricted free agent, and offering some thoughts on why they might re-sign, and why they might not re-sign. We'll then provide a percentage chance they return, and include a poll for everybody to vote whether or not they think a player will return.

There are several notable names hitting free agency, and we'll start with one on the defensive side of the ball with cornerback Perrish Cox. Last July, I don't think anybody would have thought Cox would be a notable 49ers free agent this year, but a big contract year performance has him in a position to potentially cash in.

2014 marked Cox's second stint with the 49ers, carrying over from late last season. The 49ers originally signed Perrish Cox prior to the 2012 season. He spent 2012 and the first half of 2013 handling special teams and dime back work. The 49ers released him midway through 2013 to make room for Eric Wright coming off the NFI list. He joined the Seattle Seahawks in late November and played two games with them. They subsequently waived him and he re-joined the 49ers prior to their playoff opener against the Green Bay Packers. Carlos Rogers suffered a hamstring strain, and so the 49ers brought back Cox for the playoffs.

His 2014 season was a tale of two halves. He led the team with five interceptions, with four of them coming in the first half of the season. He was solid enough as the season wore on, but it is my opinion that Chris Culliver had a better cumulative season at cornerback. If you are inclined to consider Pro Football Focus grading, he rated out positively six of the first eight games, and only moderately negative the other two. The second half of the season, Cox graded out negatively in five of the seven games, before sitting out the season finale with a shoulder injury.

Why he will return

I actually could see him being more likely to return than Chris Culliver. As I mentioned above, I think Culliver was the better corner overall in 2014. My guess is that other teams will recognize that, and he'll be the one getting the better offers. Cully had a solid rookie year, and solid first half of 2012. He struggled down the stretch, had the abysmal Super Bowl, and then blew out his knee and missed the 2013 season. However, he had some solid work to build on.

Cox on the other hand could be viewed as a one-year wonder. It doesn't meant he won't pan out, but for purposes of negotiations, he might find himself further down the hierarchy. If the 49ers do not re-sign him between now and March 10, I could see him not getting a deal early in free agency. If that happens, maybe the market dries up and he ends up returning at a fairly reasonable rate.

Why he will depart

First off, we don't know what Ed Donatell's presence meant for him, and how that will impact his decision to stay or leave. From a purely financial standpoint, all it takes is one team really liking a guy. He did show some great things, and he was a fairly notable prospect when he came into the league in 2010. If one team thinks he has the talent to build on his five interceptions last season, that could do the trick for him. It just depends on how the cornerback market shakes out in the early going.

Odds of returning

I'm going to go with 55%. Consider me skeptical that he finds a significant market. I would put this higher, but the 49ers might decide the talent in place is worth letting him walk. But I could very well see him signing a deal to return and still potentially ending up losing out to the young talent. The cornerback position is a tough one to figure out given the young talent, and Ed Donatell's departure. The secondary developed under-the-radar talent quite nicely under Donatell, including Cox.

As we head into 2015, are we looking at a starting depth chart of Tramaine Brock and Dontae Johnson, with Jimmie Ward in the slot? Or does Perrish Cox come back to compete for an opportunity? I would not be at all surprised to see Cox come back for another year. He very well could lose his spot by the end of training camp, but I would not be surprised to see him re-sign with the 49ers.