Jason Verrett

49ers re-sign Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson to one-year contracts

49ers re-sign Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson to one-year contracts

Jason Verrett, who spent most of the 2019 season on injured reserve, will get another chance to make a contribution with the 49ers.

The 49ers on Monday announced one-year contracts with veteran cornerbacks Verrett and Dontae Johnson. Both players were unrestricted free agents.

Verrett, who turns 29 in June, appeared in just one game last season before going on injured reserve due to knee problems. He has appeared in just 26 games since breaking into the NFL in 2014 when the Chargers took him No. 25 overall in the draft.

Last year, he was inactive for the team's first two games before getting his chance in Week 3 against Pittsburgh. Verrett struggled in limited playing time and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 3.

Johnson was re-signed to take his place on the team's 53-man roster.

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Verrett was limited to just six games because of a shoulder injury as a rookie. After appearing in 14 games in 2015, Verrett sustained a partial tear of his ACL and played in just four games in 2016. In the first game of 2017, he reinjured his knee and sat out the remainder of the season.

Verrett missed the entire 2018 season with a torn Achilles he sustained during a conditioning test on the first day of Chargers training camp.

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In his career, Verrett (5-foot-10, 188 pounds) has recorded five interceptions, 19 passes broken up and 80 tackles.

Johnson, 28, was a third-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2014. He returned to the organization last season and appeared in seven games after being among the team’s final cuts before the start of the regular season.

49ers free agents: Six under-the-radar players ready for open market

49ers free agents: Six under-the-radar players ready for open market

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a series in which we examined the 49ers’ scheduled free agents. We conclude with a look at the team’s under-the-radar free agents and those who have already retired.

Jason Verrett, CB

The 49ers took a calculated gamble last offseason that Verrett could remain healthy. He did not.

Verrett entered the Week 3 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was beaten badly for a TD. He was removed from the game and went on season-ending injured reserve due to knee issues.

The 49ers should have a handle on the extent of his physical issues after he was in the building for the season. But it seems reasonable that the 49ers gave it a shot for one season and do not have to give it another try.

Shon Coleman, OT

The 49ers sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns at the start of the 2018 regular season to acquire Coleman. He was inactive for his entire first season with the 49ers.

A year ago, he was projected to be the team’s swing tackle. But he sustained a fractured right fibula and dislocated ankle in the team’s first preseason game. Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill took over as the team’s backup tackles behind Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

If the 49ers were impressed by what the saw from Coleman on the practice field and meetings, they could bring him back on a one-year deal.

Damontre Moore, DE

Moore had a really good training camp and was the last cut before the start of the regular season. The team struggled with that decision. Somewhat surprisingly, no other NFL team picked up Moore.

He was still available when Ronald Blair sustained with a season-ending ACL tear. (Blair is scheduled for free agency, too.) Moore immediately stepped into a spot in the 49ers’ D-line rotation. But his season came to a quick end with a fractured forearm.

Jordan Matthews, WR

The 49ers made a mini-splash by signing Matthews last offseason. He was cut before the start of the regular season, then went to his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, for a couple of games before he was let go. 

San Francisco had Matthews for a couple of stints during the season. He appeared in one game and did not catch a pass. The 49ers can go in another direction this offseason.

Dontae Johnson, CB

Johnson appeared in seven games last season while bouncing on and off the roster. Johnson is not a bad insurance policy to have in the back pocket to step onto the field in a pinch.

There is no urgency to re-sign him, but he definitely is an option to be with the club in the offseason for competition and insurance.

Anthony Zettel, DE

Backups Blair and Moore were injured, and Jeremiah Valoaga did not give the 49ers what they wanted. So the 49ers signed Zettel in late-December. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek had experience with Zettel from their days together with the Detroit Lions.

Zettel ultimately played 15 snaps in Super Bowl LIV, but the 49ers can certain look for other backup options with more upside.

Garrett Celek, TE

Celek Time has come to an end. The popular backup tight end announced his retirement this offseason after experiencing back issues in recent seasons.

He played eight seasons with the club after signing as an undrafted rookie in 2012 from Michigan State. Celek concluded his career with 82 receptions for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns. George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Levine Toilolo, who is scheduled for free agency, were on the 49ers' roster as tight ends last season.

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Earl Mitchell, NT

Mitchell came out of retirement to play for the 49ers down the stretch after D.J. Jones was placed on injured reserve. Mitchell had a limited role as a rotational player in the playoffs.

After playing 19 snaps in the Super Bowl behind starter Sheldon Day, Mitchell said he decided to step away from the game permanently. Mitchell, 32, played nine NFL seasons.

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

49ers roster analysis: Future secondary needs warrant action now

This is the eighth installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Today, a look at the 49ers’ defensive backs.

Under contract (signed through)

-CB Richard Sherman (2020)
-S Jaquiski Tartt (2020)
-CB K’Waun Williams (2020)
-CB Ahkello Witherspoon (2020)
-S Tarvarius Moore (2021)
-CB/S D.J. Reed (2021)
-S Marcell Harris (2020)
-CB Tim Harris (2022)
-CB Teez Tabor (2020)
-S Jacob Thieneman (2021)
-CB Jermaine Kelly (2021)
-S Chris Edwards (2021)
-S Derrick Kindred (2020)

Sherman enters the third year of the three-year, $27.15 million contract he negotiated with the 49ers after the Seattle Seahawks released him in March of 2018. Tartt and Williams also are on the final years of their contracts, so the 49ers could look to extend any of them during the offseason.

Expiring contracts

-S Jimmie Ward (UFA)
-CB Jason Verrett (UFA)
-CB Dontae Johnson (UFA)
-CB Emmanuel Moseley (EFA)

Ward is a priority to re-sign. It’s just a matter of how much attention he receives on the open market (if he gets that far) and how far the 49ers will go to re-sign him.

A year ago, Verrett signed a one-year, prove-it contract. He went on injured reserve early in the season.

Moseley will be back on the team. He has no outside negotiating power because of his status as an exclusive-rights free agent.

What needs to happen

The defensive backfield situation might be the most complex to figure out for the 49ers this offseason. Ward is scheduled to be a free agent, but the 49ers also have three of their other top-five defensive backs entering the final years of their contracts.

First things first, they have to figure out how to approach Ward. They would like to retain him, but there might also be some hesitancy because of his injury history. Ward finally played a 16-game season, but that was only after missing the first three games, then picking up three games in the postseason.

Sherman, who turns 32 next month, had an outstanding regular season. Do the 49ers open talks with him about extending his contract?

On the other side, Moseley ended up as the starter over Witherspoon, who enters the final year of his deal. After the demotion, Witherspoon asked to play more special teams. Moseley generally played well, but he was in the middle of the biggest play of Super Bowl LIV.

Tartt, the starting strong safety, also enters the final year of his contract. He and Ward were high-school teammates and work well together.

Williams, one of the top nickel backs in the league, also is entering the final year of his deal.

The 49ers have just one pick in the first four rounds of the draft. This is why it makes a lot of sense to trade back (and trade back and trade back) to acquire selections in the second, third and fourth rounds.

This is a good draft for defensive backs. And while drafting for need is not often advisable, it becomes a lot better of a plan when it is a need that is projected a year down the road.

[RELATED: Ascending linebackers should make group better in 2020]

Expectations

The 49ers had the best pass defense in the league last season. Despite playing with a lead for most games, the 49ers allowed just 169.2 yards passing per game. That was the lowest average passing yards allowed in the NFL in more than a decade.

It will be nearly impossible to match that level of pass defense of a year ago. So much of the success the 49ers experienced against the pass was a product of the team’s pass rush. That will likely have to be the case again next season.

Teams generally shied away from Sherman’s side. But Sherman gave up a couple of big plays in the postseason, including one late in the Super Bowl. He likely will be challenged more in 2020, which will give him more opportunities to add to his career total of 39 interceptions (including postseason).

The 49ers must find more consistency on the other side. Moseley enters the offseason as the starter. Witherspoon is competing for a role. Tartt appears locked in as one starting safety, but the other spot is wide open at this point.

If Ward does not return to the team, Moore could be next in line to step in as a starter.

If the 49ers use an early draft pick on a safety or cornerback (or both), then competition could potentially lead to a rookie or two in the team’s starting defensive backfield.