49ers

49ers free agency grades: Verrett a big win for 2021 hopes

49ers

The 49ers took care of a significant order of business Monday when they reportedly agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract to bring cornerback Jason Verrett back for the 2021 season.

The contract reportedly reaches $6.5 million if Verrett is named to the Pro Bowl next season. Re-signing Verrett comes on the heels of a two-year contract with cornerback Emmanuel Moseley and gives the 49ers stability in their defensive backfield.

Entering the offseason, the 49ers were slated to have Verrett, Richard Sherman, K'Waun Williams, Jaquiski Tartt and Ahkello Witherspoon be unrestricted free agents, with Moseley set for restricted free agency. The 49ers stared at what could've been a massive overhaul in the secondary, but Verrett and Moseley's return gives them two capable starting corners and allows them to now focus their attention on retaining their two biggest free agents: Nickelback K'Waun Williams and left tackle Trent Williams.

Verrett, 29, made 13 starts last season for the 49ers and was Pro Football Focus' No. 7-ranked corner. He allowed 43 receptions on 63 targets for 382 yards, 141 yards after the catch, one touchdown and an opposing quarterback rating of 76.3, while also recording two interceptions. Verrett made 60 tackles and allowed just 8.9 yards per catch in 803 snaps. He earned a 76.1 coverage grade from PFF and looked the part of a high-quality NFL starting cornerback.

The big issue with Verrett, of course, is his injury history. Prior to last season, the TCU product had played just 67 snaps over the previous three seasons. During his last fully healthy season, Verrett earned a coverage grade of 90.9. While he didn't get back to that level in 2020, it's clear that if he can stay healthy he can be a top cornerback in the NFL. The 49ers want Verrett to prove that 2020 wasn't a flash in the pan and that he can do it again in 2021.

 
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Verrett has the size, length and physicality needed in a top NFL cornerback, but his football IQ makes him all the more appealing to coach Kyle Shanahan and new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

in bringing back Verrett for 2021, the 49ers make sure they have a No. 1 cornerback in a division with DeAndre Hopkins, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Moreover, the one-year, $5.5 million contract is one that won't hamstring them in 2022 when they are expected to have a crowded cap situation. It allows them to kick the can on a long-term CB1 down the road and gives Verrett another season to prove he can stay healthy and be a true top-flight NFL corner.

Having Verrett and Moseley also allows the 49ers to focus their attention in the 2021 NFL Draft on edge rusher or offensive line, two other important areas of need.

In order for the 49ers to rebound in 2021 and return to Super Bowl contention, they need their defense to rise back toward its 2019 level. Having a lockdown corner was a big part of that equation, and they got that in Verrett -- as long as he can stay healthy --  for a reasonable price.

Grade: A

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