The San Francisco 49ers cornerback position is among the most volatile areas of the roster this offseason. On Monday, the team took another positive step in shoring up the position by retaining Jason Verrett on a one-year deal, just days after re-signing Emmanuel Moseley for two more seasons.
However, with fellow starter and impending free agent Richard Sherman likely on his way out of town, the 49ers lost another experienced cornerback on Tuesday — this one to Sherman’s former club.
According to NFL insider Josina Anderson, Ahkello Witherspoon has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the division rival Seattle Seahawks. Now the fifth-year cornerback will see San Francisco at least twice in 2021.
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Witherspoon’s Turbulent 49ers Tenure Comes to an End
San Francisco originally drafted Witherspoon in the third round (No. 66 overall) in 2017 out of the University of Colorado. Since then, the soon-to-be 26-year-old has had an up and down tenure in the Bay Area. On the field, Witherspoon has posted 117 total tackles, 24 pass breakups and four interceptions in 47 games (33 starts) over his first four seasons. He played in only 11 games last year due to a lingering hamstring injury early in the season, but did play well down the stretch of the Niners’ last-place campaign.
Off the field, Witherspoon was a “constant source of frustration for coach Kyle Shanahan,” according to NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco. That included a Monday night incident against the New York Giants in November 2018 in which he reprimanded a teammate following an Odell Beckham touchdown. After the game, Shanahan was clearly irked.
“No, I am not [happy],” he told reporters, via SF Gate. “No. Man up. Don’t put that on tape. We’ll deal with it when we come in.”
After losing top cover man Shaquill Griffin to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year, $44.5 million deal on Tuesday, Witherspoon will step in as a reinforcement alongside Tre Flowers and others in the Seahawks’ revamped secondary.
K’Waun Williams Return Still a Possibility
Among the Niners’ six unrestricted free agent corners this offseason is K’Waun Williams, who has yet to agree to a new deal during the league’s two-day “legal tampering” period. However, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic, the 29-year-old slot corner is drawing interest from a handful of potential suitors, including the New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.
The 49ers are wisely keeping tabs on Williams as the cornerback market has not been especially lucrative in the early days of free agency.
In 2020, the sixth-year cornerback, who has averaged $2.4 million in salary over the past four seasons in San Fran, was limited to a career-low four starts and eight games due to a high ankle sprain and a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy. Williams has tallied 249 combined tackles, 23 pass deflections and three interceptions across 77 career games.
With Witherspoon now out of the picture, a reunion with the 49ers could lead to an elevated role in 2021. However, the same could be said for the Jets, now run by former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
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