Aside from the rumor mill surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo and the public push to re-sign blindside protector Trent Williams to a new megadeal in the coming days, the San Francisco 49ers’ most volatile position this offseason is on defense.
With six cornerbacks set to hit the open market, the team made its first key move on Friday, re-signing Emmanuel Moseley to a surprising two-year deal worth up to $10.1 million, suggesting he will take on a more elevated role next season. Still, even with one potential starter in place, signs point to the Niners moving on from Richard Sherman and available cap space (especially if Williams is re-signed) could also price counterpart Jason Verrett out of budget.
As a consolation, one analyst believes it may make sense for the 49ers to dip into the open market to solve their secondary issues, and steal from a division rival while they’re at it.
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How the 49ers Could ‘Stick It’ to the Cardinals
In a new piece on NFL.com on Friday, senior analyst Gil Brandt attempted to identify team fits for 10 boom-or-bust free agent candidates this offseason. Headlining the list were the 49ers, who Brandt pegged as the club who should take the risk of signing Arizona Cardinals star cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Here was his full justification:
The boom scenario: Peterson consistently provides the same type of sticky man-to-man coverage that enabled him to hold Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf to one catch for 6 yards on four targets, per Next Gen Stats, in Arizona’s Week 7 overtime win over Seattle. (Metcalf finished the game with two total catches for 23 yards.)
The bust scenario: In his 11th NFL season, Peterson’s speed drops to the point that he becomes a liability rather than an asset when matched against the other team’s WR1.
Who should take the risk? San Francisco 49ers. With four cornerbacks (Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon) headed for free agency, San Francisco will need fresh blood in the secondary. As the Niners did with Sherman when he left Seattle, they can still get good football and veteran leadership out of Peterson, who will surely enjoy having two chances per year to stick it to the Cardinals, should Arizona decide not to shell out dough to keep him.
Peterson’s Availability Remains Uncertain
Ever since the Cardinals made Peterson the No. 5 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, the LSU product has called Arizona his NFL home, racking up eight Pro Bowl nods and three All-Pro honors along the way. Still in search of an elusive Super Bowl ring, Peterson played out the final season of his most recent five-year, $70 million contract extension in 2020.
Should the Cardinals elect to part ways — as FanSided national NFL columnist Matt Verderame first reported on February 8 — this offseason would mark the first time Peterson has tested the open market in his 11-year career. However, less than a day after that initial report, the star cornerback dismissed it as nothing more than “a dirty rumor” on his CBS Sports All Things Covered podcast with Bryant McFadden.
Now with more than a month gone by and no deal in place, Peterson may be changing his tune considering agents and new teams can begin formal talks as early as Monday, March 15 before the flood gates open on March 17.
“I’d consider playing for anybody that has…a quarterback,” Peterson recently told McFadden on All Things Covered, via ArizonaSports.com. “If you don’t have a quarterback it’s going to be pretty difficult trying to win a football game, so whoever has a quarterback that can spin the rock and also collect enough wins to get in the playoffs. That gives us a shot to win it all.”
For San Francisco, questions remain, like will the team have the necessary cap space to dish out the $8-10 million annual salary the 30-year-old will likely require to sign elsewhere? And does Garoppolo fit his mold of a passer who can “spin the rock?”
Or does Peterson still have his sights set on a return to the desert where Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins continue to build rapport across from the newly signed reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt?
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