The San Francisco 49ers signed cornerbacks Chris Cook and Shareece Wright on Saturday. This came on the heels of the team losing out on their own free agents in Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. It's hardly debatable that the 49ers got worse at the position in just a single day -- they most definitely did.
Culliver is the best of the four, but the 49ers not bringing him back is actually a good thing, in my opinion. Culliver signed a four-year deal with Washington, and he'll make $32 million over the course of that contract, with between $14 million and $16 million guaranteed, according to the Washington Post. Culliver is young and promising, but nothing I saw spelled out "worth $8 million per season" in his short time with the 49ers.
Then there's Cox, who had the definition of an up-and-down season. He finally broke out and played high-level football early in the season, looking like a starter. But later in the season, when teams started targeting him, he started to slip big time, looking more and more like the dime corner pressed into starting duty that he was. Still, there was probably more good than bad in the end and many hoped the 49ers would bring him back.
Cox signed with the Tennessee Titans, agreeing to terms on a three-year deal worth $15 million. I'm a little conflicted, as I wouldn't want him at $15 million, three years or an average of $5 million per year. But the 49ers have a need, and the price isn't so outrageous as to make it unrealistic.
Then again, maybe the price is a steal, given what the 49ers paid for Wright, a cornerback who has shown little upside, is called for pass interference more than anyone in the league and didn't seem to have any leverage coming into free agency. San Francisco reportedly gave Wright a $3 million contract, with another $1 million in possible incentives. That's not a massive contract, but if you asked me whether or not the difference between Wright and Cox was worth an extra $1 million to $2 million, the answer would be easy:
Bringing back Cook on what should be a minimal deal is a good signing, I have to admit. He's a valuable backup, is still just 28 years old and is familiar with many of the 49ers' coaches. I have no real complaints there.
But looking at the 49ers' depth chart they now have Tramaine Brock, Dontae Johnson, Jimmie Ward, Wright and Cook. I really, really like Johnson's potential -- a lot more than Ward -- and I think Brock is absolutely deserving of the confidence San Francisco seems to have in him. But right now, the cornerback position is a massive need.
Back when most figured the 49ers would be able to retain one of either Culliver or Cox, few liked the idea of using a top draft pick on a cornerback but now I think it's not only likely, but it's almost essential. I'm not sure what's going to happen with Ward but the 49ers are in a position to get an actual game-changing cornerback, provided there's one they like.
So is that the plan? Will the 49ers use a top pick on a cornerback or are they paying Wright $3 million to start opposite Brock?