49ers Mentioned as Possible Suitor for Former DPOY Winner

Michael Crabtree

Getty Michael Crabtree catches a pass against Stephon Gilmore during an October 2012 game between the 49ers and Bills.

The San Francisco 49ers are heading into Inglewood with the belief that their roster is championship material, especially being one game away from their franchise record eighth NFC conference title.

Whether if the 49ers win, or in the event Sunday, January 30 doesn’t go their way against the Los Angeles Rams and there’s chatter on who the missing pieces are moving forward, there’s already one analyst who believes one man could be that proverbial missing piece regardless of how the NFC title game plays out.

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And this defender not only is one who “checks all the boxes as a suitor” for the 49ers, but has Defensive Player of the Year on his resume.

Plus, with four 2022 unrestricted free agents representing the cornerback position, the ‘Niners were linked as a possibility for this incoming free agent defender.

That cornerback, is Stephon Gilmore.

Why Gilmore is a Possible Suitor for 49ers

In a Friday, January 28 article titled “Potential Landing Spots for 4-Time Pro Bowl CB Stephon Gilmore in 2022,” B/R writer Alex Ballentine mentioned six possibilities for the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

Here’s one reason why Ballentine and B/R believes the 49ers and the 32-year-old Gilmore are a suitable pairing:

“The San Francisco 49ers check all the boxes as a suitor for Gilmore. They have a clear need at cornerback. Emmanuel Moseley has played well — he’s the 18th-highest-graded cornerback by PFF (Pro Football Focus) this season. However, the rest of the group has been underwhelming. Gilmore would be a clear upgrade over the likes of Ambry Thomas, Dontae Johnson and what’s left of Josh Norman.”

Ballentine does have a point regarding the three corners he mentioned.

While the rookie Thomas has shown coverage improvement on the field, plus delivered this game-changing play in his last appearance at SoFi Stadium, he’s still been bothered by late injuries and is still considered raw. Johnson and Norman are two of the four free agents, with the latter showing that he’s lost some steps.

“None of those corners carry PFF grades higher than Johnson at 61.2. With K’Waun Williams and Jason Verrett set to hit the open market, a shake-up of their cornerback room is in order,” Ballentine writes.

Structure of Defense Could Add More Years for Gilmore

It’s sometimes said on the football field that a cornerback’s best friend is an elite pass rush.

The 49ers have that installed already — with five sacks in their last three wins over the Rams, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers as proof. Should Gilmore find his way to the Bay Area, he gets that benefit. But his arrival can add one more needed layer to the defense as Ballentine points out.

“The Niners are one of four teams still alive in the playoffs. They have built a contender on the strength of a great defensive line that can rush the passer and a dynamic running game anchored by a top offensive line. Adding a shutdown corner to the mix will take the defense to the next level.”

Despite his age, he has shown he can snatch the ball from offenses:

There’s another reason why the 49ers could make such a move: The looming decision involving Jimmy Garoppolo.

Should the 49ers decide to move on from Jimmy G, the franchise will go from having $10.3 million in cap space to freeing up $25.5 million — more than enough to consider adding Gilmore.

One thing is certain: The 49ers front office will likely scrutinize the cornerback play against Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham and company on Sunday — which will determine if they should keep a good number of corners from the 2021 roster or look for upgrades, including possibly adding an established veteran like Gilmore.

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