NFL free agency: Jason Verrett signs one-year contract with 49ers

NFL free agency: Jason Verrett signs one-year contract with 49ers

The 49ers have signed ex-Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett to a one-year $3.6 million contract.

The 49ers were in need of adding competition and experience to their secondary, and as a result went after the veteran corner who spent his first five years in the league with the Chargers. 

Verrett (5-foot-10, 188 pounds) was the 25th overall selection in the 2014 draft and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015. He has only played in five games in the past three seasons as a result of several injuries.

He most recently tore his Achilles tendon in a conditioning test on the first day of the 2018 offseason program.

The team had high hopes for defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon after his breakout rookie season. The young cornerback did not fare as well in the beginning of his sophomore season playing opposite of veteran Richard Sherman. Verrett will raise the level of competition with the young group. 

Verrett has experience, and prior to his injuries, was matched up against some of the top wide receivers in the league. Again, as with Kwon Alexander’s contract, the 49ers hedged their bets and gave Verrett a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal without much risk. 

[RELATED: Live rumors, updates, news on available free agents]

Even with the history of injuries, Verrett saw interest from other teams including the Texans and the Chiefs. He was reportedly going to visit both teams after his meeting with the 49ers, but those meetings never happened. Verrett explained why. 

"The coaching here, the vibe here," Verrett said. "Just the way the coaching staff is. The locker room, the facilities. Everything from top to bottom is a class act organization." 

The 49ers staff also assured Verrett that they brought him in to compete. 

"The opportunity is there for me, wide open," Verrett said. "It's there for me to take it. It's just for me to get back healthy and get back out there on the football field and do what I know I can do. With all the things that I've been through, all you can ask for is the opportunity." 

When Verrett has been healthy, he has been very productive. The 49ers and Verrett alike are hoping he can have a season like he did in 2015 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl. Dealing with all of the injuries hasn't been easy for the cornerback mentally. 

"It's been tough," Verrett said. "It's a smile now, cry later kind of thing for me. There were a lot of dark moments with the injuries but I came out of the tunnel, and I'm ready to get things rolling. 

"My body feels good. I'm on track with the way my Achilles is healing now. Meeting with the doctors here and the staff here to get on the same page and look forward for the season."

The 49ers have also signed defensive back Antone Exum Jr. to a one-year, $895,000 contract. He appeared in 15 games, and started seven in 2018 after injuries to Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert and Jimmie Ward. He also contributes on special teams. 

Why Aldon Smith not labeling self as 'victim' is great sign of growth


Why Aldon Smith not labeling self as 'victim' is great sign of growth

My amateur opinion was that Aldon Smith never took responsibility for his actions.

Maybe I was wrong. But that’s the impression I got from him, including a time we spoke at length during the 2014 offseason when he came by our studios on Third Street in San Francisco. He visited some tech companies in the South Bay and our studios to get out and gain a greater perspective in life.

On the outside, it looked as if his life was spiraling out of control. But when you spoke with him, he portrayed himself as if he had everything under control. And he could be convincing, too.

That’s why I never really thought Smith had a chance to succeed in a comeback attempt.

Then, I read something Wednesday night that changed my mind. Or, at least, it gave me hope that Smith has turned an important corner. Smith posted a statement on his Instagram account after signing a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

It read:

There is beauty in the struggle.

Life will always present us w/tests. I’ve learned how to take a different perspective on the adversities of life. Instead of looking at life as a victim, I have embraced the journey as God has planned it, making exponential strides towards becoming a better man.

Take this time that we have away from our normal day to day activities and think about changing your perspectives. Focus not on how bad this situation is but instead on how we can all come out of this better people. Let’s work on the things we have been putting off and grow towards our ultimate potential.

I never thought Smith was a bad guy. Never. His was a sad story, for sure.

But I always felt he never took responsibilities for his actions -- the actions that derailed his Hall-of-Fame start with the 49ers and ended his tenure with the Raiders before it really even began.

There might have been plenty of underlying reasons Smith had run-ins with the law and issues with substances of abuse. But there are also a lot of people who went through worse and did not repeatedly make the same mistakes, the same poor decisions.

I was not sure how to feel about the latest, unexpected Smith news after Jay Glazer of Fox Sports and The Athletic broke the story that Smith signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

Glazer described Smith as “clean and sober now.” He added, it is “incredible how much he’s turned his life around.” Glazer revealed he has been around Smith for more than a year with the Merging Vets & Players program. Smith has been “amazing in helping veterans dealing with sobriety issues while getting help himself.”

While I did not doubt any of what Glazer described, what provided the most reason for hope came from Smith -- “instead of looking at life as a victim.” I can’t tell you how happy I was to read those words.

Smith is 30. He has not played in the NFL since 2015. I can only imagine what he faces daily. It is not just a matter of mental toughness or will power. If only it were that easy for him and the many others who deal with similar issues.

It means little to me how well Smith performs on the field this season and, possibly, in the next few years. The important part is that he sets himself up for the many, many years after his playing days are over.

This is a great step on that journey.

NFL rumors: Aldon Smith, Cowboys agree to terms as ex-49er, Raider returns


NFL rumors: Aldon Smith, Cowboys agree to terms as ex-49er, Raider returns

He's back.

Former 49ers and Raiders defensive lineman Aldon Smith reportedly is returning to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, FOX's Jay Glazer reported Wednesday night.

NFL Media's Ian Rapaport later reported that Smith has agreed to one-year, $4 million contract.

Smith, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, spent the first four seasons of his career with San Francisco, totaling 44.0 sacks over his first 50 games. A series of personal conduct violations and run-ins with the law ultimately ended his tenure with the 49ers. He then played nine games with the Oakland Raiders in 2015, but has not played in the NFL since.

The deal is contingent on reinstatement from an indefinite ban levied after multiple violations of the substance abuse policy. A contract signifies confidence that he will be reinstated.

Reinstatement to the NFL requires proof of prolonged avoidance of substance of abuse (supported by clean drug tests), and a strong case made to the league.

[RELATED: 49ers, Raiders go offense/defense in latest mock draft]

In Dallas, Smith would reunite with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who was his position coach throughout his time with San Francisco.

The 49ers are scheduled to play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in 2020.