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49ers free agency: Can the Niners afford to lose Jason Verrett?

Our free agency profiles continue as we look at the veteran cornerback who had a career year.

Washington Football Team v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

I have been watching Jason Verrett for a long, long time. One of the first articles I wrote for SB Nation was in October of 2014, highlighting how we don’t need to wait for 20 games to see confirm whether Verrett is talented:

It’s easy to see players with star potential. Why do we have to wait to say it? You don’t need 162 games of Mike Trout to realize he’s special. You don’t need 30 games of Andrew Luck to realize he can play quarterback. I don’t need 3 years to wait and see if Jason Verrett is the answer at corner. It’s the little things that he does. Whether it’s diagnosing the run and coming up quickly to secure the tackle. Or understanding route concepts and knowing down and distances. Verrett understands the game far beyond his years.

That was six seasons ago. Heading into the 2020 season, Verrett had played 1,047 snaps since his rookie season. Verrett's odds of playing starter snaps after going down with an injury during the Steelers game in 2019 after four plays were slim. Yet, Verrett overcame those odds and played 803 snaps for the 49ers in 2020.

For a player who hasn’t played a full season since 2015, the Niners have to be jumping with joy with the production they received from Verrett in 2020. Verrett finished the season with two interceptions and six pass breakups. Those numbers aren’t going to blow you away on the surface. Adding context, Verrett made those plays without any hint of a pass rush. Could you imagine his numbers with the 49ers' defensive line from 2019?

Ball production is nice but rarely tells the entire story—which is why players like Jimmie Ward remain undervalued. In Verrett’s case, when he gave up a reception, it rarely hurt the defense. For all defensive backs targeted at least 50 times this past season, per Sports Info Solutions, Verrett’s 6.9 yards per target allowed was 11th in the NFL.

I’ve mentioned SIS’s “total points saved” before. Here is the definition:

The total of a player’s EPA responsibility while in coverage using the Total Points system that distributes credit among all players on the field for a given play (with positive numbers being good). For pass defenders, this includes accounting for pass rush, broken tackles, dropped interceptions, turnovers, and turnover returns.

Among all defensive backs in the NFL, Verrett ranked seventh in total points saved. If there’s a cornerback stat out there, Verrett is likely in the top 15.

For more context, since the Niners bye week, Verrett lined up against Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin, DeAndre Hopkins, and DK Metcalf 19 times. Verrett allowed 11 receptions for 72 yards and zero touchdowns. That’s 3.8 yards per target against some of the best receivers in the NFL.

What’s Verrett’s value?

Verrett played 40% of his career snaps in 2020. Whether 2014 or 2020, talent has never been his issue. Verrett’s contract situation is tricky with his injury history. Verrett will be 30 by the time training camp rolls around. Verrett’s current cap number is under $1 million. Over the Cap’s valuation has Verrett projected to make just under $10 million this offseason.

A one-year deal worth up to $12-13 million with $9-10 million guaranteed makes sense for San Francisco. You can add incentives for playing time and hitting certain metrics to make Verrett’s contract more appealing. It’s fair to assume Verrett would want more stability, so the 49ers might have to add a year or two to satisfy the veteran cornerback. If anything, that’d help the team as they’d be able to push money into future years as many expect the salary cap to drop this offseason.

At cornerback, especially in free agency, teams overpay. That’s the name of the game. Paying Verrett north of $10 million would mean you think he’s one of the 15 best cornerbacks in the NFL. Desmon Trufant, who turned 31 and signed a deal with the Lions during the offseason of 2020, signed a two-year, $14 million deal. Bradley Roby signed a similar deal with the Texans where he averaged $10.5 million a year. Roby is 29-years-old. That’s probably around the ballpark we’re talking about for Verrett.

How should the 49ers handle Verrett in free agency?

Poll

What should the 49ers do with Verrett?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Let him walk
    (78 votes)
  • 80%
    Pay him $10M per year and no more
    (1404 votes)
  • 12%
    Draft a CB instead
    (219 votes)
  • 2%
    Sign another CB in FA instead
    (46 votes)
1747 votes total Vote Now