The perfect addition would be a guy ready to contribute in a role that could see upside, but would mostly be as a fill-in for Sherman (when he returns,) second-year corner Emmanuel Moseley as well as Ahkello Witherspoon.
While the team could move K’Waun Williams out of the nickel CB spot, his skillset has proven to be best suited in that role, and nickel corners don’t always translate to outside success.
One player with tons of experience in this aforementioned role is former Kansas City Chief and Dallas Cowboy Morris Claiborne, who is still searching for a team after a part-time role with the reigning Super Bowl champs.
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After a high-profile career as an LSU Tiger, Claiborne began his NFL journey with Dallas, joining the Cowboys as the sixth overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
As most Dallas fans could tell you, Claiborne’s career with the Cowboys was marred by injury, playing 47 of 80 total regular-season games from 2012 to 2016.
However, in those 47 games, the 30-year-old corner totaled 27 passes defended and four interceptions, which is more than an average return.
Injury and not quite living up to the high-place draft pick, Claiborne headed to the New York Jets, where he arguably had his best two seasons, playing 30 games with 22 passes defended and three picks.
But again, Clairborne found himself on the outside looking in, with the Jets going a different direction. But despite having two solid seasons, no team was looking to pay Claiborne what he likely deserved, leading to a bit-part role with Kansas City in 2019.
While the corner didn’t play a factor in the Chiefs’ run to a Super Bowl title in the ensuing postseason, he played fairly well when called upon and continued to show that he has more than the minimum it takes to be successful in the NFL.
Expectations for Claiborne
To cut out all the extra minutia, the 49ers simply need a stop-gap. While Witherspoon is expected to exit the concussion protocol this week in time for the Week 2 matchup with the Jets, the team needs a bit of new blood after Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals diced up the 49ers in the season opener.
There’s plenty of guys that the team could probably get for cheaper than a 30-year-old corner that has a proven track record, but the team isn’t likely to find a guy that they know could handle the responsibility when he comes in.
After Sherman returns, Claiborne wouldn’t see a ton of gametime if everyone stays healthy, but as this unorthodox offseason and start to the regular season has shown, San Francisco can’t count on good injury luck.
Claiborne wouldn’t necessarily transform the 49ers defense, but the low-end of the team would get much, much stronger and the team could rely on the fact that they have the depth required at corner to make another playoff run.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.