One of the steals of the 2020 season came in the Bay Area, where Jason Verrett produced a top-10 season at cornerback while making just north of a million bucks for the season. It was the first season since 2015 since Verrett played more than four games, but it was a nice reminder that Verrett’s skillset remains elite.
Verrett turned 30 on June 18, which is a scary number for all cornerbacks. That’s generally the age where athleticism falls off a cliff out of nowhere. Father Time is undefeated, and having an extensive injury history won’t help Verrett outrun Father Time.
It’s been essentially two seasons since Verrett suffered an injury, considering he left early in the 2019 season. That showed last season, as Verrett was among the league leaders in yards allowed per target, and he didn’t get beaten deep. Verrett gave up one touchdown while facing stiff competition, specifically toward the end of the season.
Can he put up an encore season, though? The 49ers are hoping that’s the case.
Weight: 188 pounds
Age: 30 (birthday was on June 18)
Experience: Seven accrued seasons
In an offseason where COVID impacted how teams can spend during free agency, an impressive season didn’t lead to Verrett breaking the bank. His history and age surely played a factor, as Verrett bet on himself with a one-year contract with only $2.5 million in guaranteed money. Verrett’s signing bonus of $2 million, plus other roster bonuses, make his cap hit for the ‘21 season $5.2 million.
Why he might improve in 2021
Verrett’s answer is the same as everyone else on the roster: Nick Bosa will be on the field. Verrett’s ‘season last year stands out, even more, knowing the 49ers' adjusted sack rate was almost half of what it was in ‘19.
Their pass rush was closer to smoke and mirrors, using deception and sending four guys and expecting them to get home. With an additional game added onto the schedule, Verrett has a chance to play four more games this season, as he missed three last year.
Verrett has to improve as a tackler. He was willing last season, which is half of the battle, but he missed a tackle 10.4% of the time. The best offenses design their outside runs by leaving the cornerback unblocked, forcing them to make a play. If the cornerback can’t finish, you have yourself an explosive play.
What to expect in 2021
An improved pass rush means more opportunities for Verrett. He averaged about four targets per game last season. If the ball is coming out hot, assuming DeMeco Ryans is more aggressive than Robert Saleh, then we should see an uptick in Verrett’s targets. That means more chances for pass breakups and interceptions.
Above all, the football community, not just 49ers fans, want to see Verrett play a full season. He’s as sound as it gets from a technique standpoint, and, as Verrett gets older, he’ll need to rely on what he’s learned and not his athleticism.
The 49ers have depth at cornerback, but they don’t have proven talent like Verrett. After him, you could argue that everyone is a question mark. That makes Verrett’s health one of the most important aspects of this team.