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49ers potential NFL free agent target: Jason McCourty

We’re taking a look at impending free agents the 49ers could target at the start of the league year.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan enter into Year 3 at the helm of the San Francisco 49ers. With a slew of roster needs and some $65 million in salary cap space, the 49ers could be among the more active teams in free agency. In this series, we’ll be taking a look at impending free agents that could be on the team’s radar at the start of the league year on March 13.

Signing Richard Sherman paid off for the 49ers. The veteran cornerback made a successful return from a 2017 torn achilles and resumed his role as a consistent force on the left side of the defense. Unfortunately, opposing offenses were perfectly fine with avoiding Sherman and targeting second-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who struggled with the added attention. The outlook opposite Sherman for 2019 is currently a two-man competition between Witherspoon and second-year converted safety Tarvarius Moore. The 49ers need to add another challenger for that role.

Among a crowded group of cornerbacks slated for free agency is Jason McCourty. The Patriots veteran is on his third team in three years but is coming off one the best seasons of his 10-year career. McCourty’s strong 2018 was highlighted by what might've been the greatest play of Super Bowl LIII. Late in the third quarter, McCourty broke from his assignment, streaking deep into the secondary to break up a would-be touchdown pass to Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks.

McCourty, 31, was not a role player in 2018, but a valuable piece of the Patriots’ defense. His 933 snaps were the most he’s played since 2014, per Pro Football Focus. McCourty earned a 80.0 overall grade on the season. His 80.0 in coverage ranked 11th among cornerbacks and his 81.6 tackling grade ranked seventh. McCourty totaled 70 tackles last season while adding 10 pass breakups and an interception. He offers a valuable and well-rounded skillset both in coverage and against the run.

McCourty earned just $3.3 million in 2018. His standout season in a Super Bowl-winning effort likely earned him a significant raise, but given his age, the 49ers could likely land the veteran for a reasonable price on a two- or three-year deal. McCourty proved that he’s still more than capable of playing a high level, and offers San Francisco another veteran presence among a young, developing secondary.