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49ers 2019 roster battles: Who is a lock at cornerback?

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Breaking down the 49ers’ most contested roster battles this offseason.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers began Week 3 on OTAs on Monday. It’s a significant point of the offseason in which competition for spots on the roster starts to heat up. It’s Year 3 for general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Their roster, still rebuilding, has several positions that are far from certain heading into the 2019 season. The lineup at cornerback will be contested throughout the offseason.

The locks

There are only three actual locks among the 49ers’ current group of cornerbacks. Veteran Richard Sherman, now two seasons removed from a torn Achilles, is slated to resume his role on the left side of the secondary. Ahkello Witherspoon enters into his third season and will compete for the starting role on the right. Tarvarius Moore was expected to compete with Witherspoon, and still may, but he’s been moved to free safety, for now, to reinforce the group after Jimmie Ward’s broken collarbone.

The contenders

While not listed as locks, there are still a few 49ers cornerbacks that have a strong chance of making the team’s 53-man roster. Second-year defensive back DJ Reed Jr. played admirably as a rookie at both safety and corner. He seemed better suited closer to the line of scrimmage though, rattling off 12 total tackles against the Denver Broncos in Week 12 while replacing veteran Kwaun Williams. The two may be locked in a heated competition this offseason for the starting spot at slot corner.

The 49ers also added the talented but oft-injured Jason Verrett in the offseason. Since he was a first-round pick in 2014, Verrett has only played in a total of 25 games. He’s suffered a myriad of injuries culminating in a torn Achilles during training camp that cost him all of 2018. When on the field though, Verrett is immensely talented. In 2015, his healthiest season, Verrett totaled 42 tackles, 12 pass breakups, three interceptions in 14 games and was selected for the Pro Bowl. His chances of making the roster and starting are useful only if he can avoid the injury bug that’s plagued his career.

Rounding out the group is sixth-round rookie Tim Harris, second-year contributor Greg Mabin, 2017 undrafted free agent Emmanuel Moseley and returning veteran Dontae Johnson. If Verrett remains healthy, those mentioned above are likely competing for one or two spots. The 49ers kept six cornerbacks in 2018, but Reed was listed as a safety on the final roster. If that’s the case again, and Moore retains his spot at safety, there could be additional spots at cornerback for the taking. The battle in the secondary will be one to watch in 2019.