We’re going to look at each positions departures prior to Week 1 of the 2018 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the secondary.
We’re lumping the cornerbacks and safeties together as one position. There are two reasons for this, each position didn’t have much turnover as one would expect and because oftentimes the players are depended on to play both spots in a pinch.
The secondary was, and still is, a work in progress. The one difference is Eric Reid, who found success after leaving in free agency. Unfortunately, many know the 49ers have had a hard time drafting defensive backs. This is where it gets nasty.
Here’s a list of the more notable departures that is in no way complete. Note that with some exceptions, camp bodies, training camp transactions, and roster cuts during the season are not listed for the most part.
Eric Reid (S)
Dontae Johnson (CB)
Rashard Robinson (CB)
Leon Hall (CB)
Asa Jackson (CB)
The 2013 first round pick of the 49ers had a phenomenal start to his career, getting nominated to the Pro Bowl his rookie season and drawing comparisons to Ronnie Lott.
Reid never quite got back to his 2013 form, but he still made himself serviceable and a leader in the locker room during the coaching merry-go-round. When Kyle Shanahan—and Robert Saleh by extension—arrived, that’s when things got interesting. Starting as a safety, Reid was later moved to linebacker which was a bit strange, but also indicative that his time as a 49er may be coming to an end. The 49ers made an offer for Reid to stay, but he wanted a multi-year deal.
Reid had difficulty finding a roster spot because of the safety market among other things. He went to the Carolina Panthers in late September after Panthers safety Da’Norris Searcy went to injured reserve. Reid made it hard to keep him off a team after that getting 71 tackles, one sack, five passes defensed and an interception. Oh and did we mention that’s from playing just 13 games? The performance garnered him a three-year extension at year’s end.
Reid also was subjected to several drug tests. A number that was a bit odd, but the league claims nothing improper was done in their rapid testing.
Dontae Johnson. Man, what happened? As someone who showed so much promise, Johnson just couldn’t get it together when it was time to show his stuff. His PFF grades were in the 70s for his rookie season, but in 2018 he had an overall grade of 36.9. Johnson took the role of “49ers secondary scapegoat” and was picked apart time and time again. It was enough for the 49ers to let him walk in free agency and he went to none other than the Seattle Seahawks. And projected to be a starter.
And...he never started. A groin injury kept him off the field and the Seahawks let him go. Johnson then bounced around the league going to the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and finally the Kansas City Chiefs where he remains. Johnson’s one game of 2018 came from the Buffalo Bills and he doesn’t have a single stat.
We may never know what Trent Baalke was thinking taking Rashard Robinson, who didn’t even have a football team in the NFL Draft, but he had some promise. Well, for what the 49ers’ options were at the position he had some. He had an ‘OK’ rookie season, but it was enough to shoot him to start in 2017.
Many accounts say Robinson had a great training camp and preseason in 2017, but all that I remember was his mouth. Robinson was noted for trash talking, even going at it with Jerry Rice. Now that’s a bad sign right there, but that very same mouth seemed to be the best part of Robinson, because he wasn’t showing it on the field.
After being benched, there was an incident on a 49ers flight and that was enough to ship him off to the New York Jets that very same season, where he was arrested for drug possession in December.
Robinson’s 2018 began with a four-game suspension and then he played in 10 games. He had one fumble recoevery, eight tackles, and that’s it. No word yet on how many zingers he gave between plays.
Is there anyone from the 49ers secondary you’d like back?