For as much as we talk about San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh poaching coaches on the staff, don’t rule out Saleh recruiting a few unrestricted free agents. Let’s assume Saleh is coaching the Detroit Lions. As of now, the Lions have under $1 million in cap space for 2021.
Detriot can make a few moves, including trading a certain quarterback. Matthew Stafford has $19 million in dead money, but the Lions save $14 million in cap space. Some projections have the Lions to be around 19th next season in cap space. It isn’t easy to project next year’s salary cap. Some think it’ll drop as much as $40 million.
If Saleh were to take over a team like the Jaguars, he’d have nearly $75 million to work with if that job were to come open. For the 49ers, losing the likes of Kerry Hyder or Jason Verrett could be far more costly than Saleh asking Demeco Ryans to be his defensive coordinator.
Former 49ers safety Donte Whitner believes Saleh will take three defensive backs with him:
“If I were Robert Saleh, I’d try to take three guys.
They ask him to understand quarterback counts and how to manipulate the quarterback, body position and being natural at the position. I’d try to get K’Waun Williams.
(It’s) pretty much guaranteed that the 49ers probably aren’t going to sign this guy back, especially the way this season went,” Whitner said. “Witherspoon is a guy that Saleh has openly talked about loving this guy and loving the way he performs in practice. I could see getting him on a one-year or cheap deal.
Tartt is pretty much the quarterback of this defense when he’s back there. He does all the communicating. If Saleh is going to take this cover-3 system over to Detroit or wherever he lands, he’s going to need somebody who can react and can call out the defense and take control back there.”
The 49ers have a strong culture, but expecting multiple players to take discounts to stay isn’t realistic. These guys are looking to win but also looking to secure a future for themselves and their families. If you’re K’Waun Williams, would you sign for $3-5 million less in San Francisco? Williams turns 30 in July. Tartt will be 29 in February. Verrett will turn 30 in June. This could be the last contract in the NFL for all three. They’d be wise to cash out.
If I’m John Lynch, Verrett will receive a deal with plenty of guarantees upfront and incentives for games played. Maybe a two-year, $25-27 million deal. He should be the top priority on defense as he’s matched up against the top receivers in the NFL and more than held his own this season.
Tartt, who has been my favorite defender to watch, is likely on his way out based on his injury history. He’ll be difficult to replace regarding what Tartt brings on the field, though finding a player who can play 16 games will help.
Williams has missed seven games this season, which is more than double the number of games he’s missed for any season in his career. Williams is an obvious playmaker, but his role should help the Niners negotiate an affordable deal for themselves. Slot cornerbacks aren’t viewed the same as cornerbacks who play on the outside.
Re-sign Verrett and hopefully Verrett, and invest in a cornerback early in the draft. I believe the 49ers would be able to get by with average safety play and wouldn’t rule out Tarvarius Moore starting or competing for a chance to start next season. We are well past the time for the 49ers to invest at the cornerback position, however.