On Monday, we went over seven possible replacements at defensive tackle for DeForest Buckner in free agency. Realistically, you’re not going to find one person to replace Buckner. It’ll be by a committee unless the San Francisco 49ers are willing to invest in free agency or early in the draft. The 49ers have been quiet in the sense of adding new players, which was expected. The Niners were interested in former Broncos C/RG Conner McGovern, but he chose to sign with the Jets. With Jimmie Ward back with the 49ers, we can eliminate safety as a need. Let’s take a look at the top free agents available at cornerback and wide receiver: one dream signing, one realistic signing, and one depth signing. We’ll skip defensive tackle since we talked about that position on Tuesday.
Finding more targets for Jimmy
Home run— Trading for a superstar
Emmanuel Sanders would be great. Robby Anderson would be nice. Trading for a superstar like Allen Robinson would be the real home run. If you look at some other stars contracts like Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr., they’re going to cost around the same as Arik Armstead. You’re not going to trade away a player you were going to have to pay north of $15 million a season only to trade for another player like that. Using Robinson’s contract as an example, he’s in the last year of his deal, and the 49ers could work out an extension where he can fit under their salary cap while structuring his contract where Robinson gets a significant pay bump once the salary cap spikes in a year or two. Discussing acquiring superstars is fun—like potentially trading for A.J. Green—but they are far-fetched and mostly unrealistic.
Realistic— Breshad Perriman
Perriman finally put it together down the stretch last season once Tampa Bay lost their two starting receivers. Perriman finished the season with three-straight 100-yard games and four touchdowns. For the season, he dropped one pass on 65 targets. He gives the 49ers a legitimate deep threat. Perriman was targeted over 20 yards 28 times last year. Yes, a lot of that is the Bruce Arians offense, but Perriman can run by defenders. He can also make plays with the ball in the air. Still only 26-years-old, Perriman could be signed to a contract that is full of incentives. He may not be Kyle Shanahan’s prototype, but he opens up the field for everyone underneath and would thrive in Shanahan’s play-action passing game.
Depth —Phillip Dorsett
The 49ers had an interest in Dorsett, as we mentioned on Monday. Dorsett caught 30 of his 60 targets with the Patriots in 2019 for 403 yards and five touchdowns. He’s not much of a threat after the catch, which is usually the type of wide receiver Kyle Shanahan favors. Dorsett’s career-high in receptions is 37, and his career-high in receiving yards is 528. The Patriots took shows down the field with Dorsett quite a bit in 2019. He had 13 targets over 20 yards just to the left side of the field. Dorsett had five other targets over 20 yards. Using FootballOutsiders DVOA for wide receivers, Dorsett ranked 46th overall. Honestly, I’d prefer Richie James to get a shot as opposed to Dorsett, who is already a player that we’ve seen get an opportunity.
Someone that’s been there at cornerback
I wanted to put Aqib Talib here because I think he’d be a fantastic fit in the 49ers secondary, but he didn’t play the second half of the season and didn’t play after Week 5 last year. Talib did say he was healthy, despite going on the IR.
Home run — Jimmy Smith
That brings us to Smith, who comes with risk, but with Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon waiting in the wings, you’d feel comfortable in the event Smith is injured. Smith missed nearly half of the season for the Ravens. In the second half, he was as good as it gets. The 31-year-old allowed only 5.8 yards per pass, which was one of the best in the league last year. Smith only allowed 49% of his targets to be completed as well. Smith doesn’t mind mixing it up in the running game, as evidenced by his eight stops. He’s a physical press corner that is exactly what this defense needs. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan.
Realistic — Desmond Trufant
For one, he’s a Falcon. I should just leave it at that. Trufant is a guy that will look great one game, then get torched another game. He has All-Pro talent, but he’s inconsistent. I still think he’d be a slight upgrade over Moseley, just based on his experience. That’s not fair to E-Man, because he’s not going to get better without playing, but you can trust Trufant. The former Falcon gave up five touchdowns last year (all in two games) and had four interceptions.
Trufant allowed 67% of his targets to be completed, which is a bit concerning. His success rate was a disaster at 39%. This is going to surprise you, but the 49ers defense is better than the Falcons. Trufant is an aggressive cornerback, and with the 49ers pass rush and speed, I’d fully expect him to have a bounce-back year with San Francisco.
Depth — Already on the roster
If the 49ers address cornerback in free agency, it’ll be to replace Moseley or Witherspoon, not to challenge them as a starter. Signing a cornerback for “depth” doesn’t make sense to me. Last year’s sixth-round pick Tim Harris is “depth.” D.J. Reed is “depth.” I think it’s important to understand that the 49ers aren’t going to spend money just to spend money. You have to look ahead at upcoming extensions like George Kittle, and the 2021 free agents like Richard Sherman, Jaquiski Tartt, D.J. Jones, and other important players on the roster like K’Waun Williams.