Just one game into the new season and already the San Francisco 49ers are thin in the defensive backfield.
The best solution, however, may reside just a short trip down memory lane.
Following the Niners’ 41-33 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, September 12, reporters asked head coach Kyle Shanahan whether he would look to an outside signing to bolster the defensive backfield. The unit was weakened during the 4th quarter of the team’s season-opening win when cornerback Jason Verrett went down with a knee injury that team officials fear will prove to be an ACL tear.
“I’m not sure,” Shanahan said of whether further signings of defensive backs would take place in the immediate future. “We do have the numbers and stuff. I mean, we’ll always look into everything every week, so keeping my fingers crossed on Verrett, but that’s something we’ll look into here, probably tonight, tomorrow and Tuesday.”
One such addition could be former Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman, who played the last three NFL seasons in San Francisco.
“We’ve discussed it,” Shanahan acknowledged Sunday. “I’ve talked to Sherm about it too, and Sherm’s always a possibility.”
Niners Added Reinforcements to Defensive Backfield in Recent Weeks
The Niners recently signed cornerback Josh Norman, a former All-Pro, who played in nine games for the Buffalo Bills in 2020-21.
“He was definitely ready to go,” Shanahan told reporters Sunday of Norman’s status. “Josh actually told us if we tell him today that he’s up, he’ll be ready to go. So Josh has been a soldier all week, and I’m real excited to have him here. And I know he was ready this week, so I expect him to be ready next week also.”
The Niners also moved cornerback Dontae Johnson from the practice squad to the active roster for Sunday’s game against the Lions. The spot opened up when the 49ers chose to send wide receiver Jalen Hurd to the injured reserve list (IR), where he will remain through at least Week 3.
Johnson’s services were required due to the absence of the Niners’ other starting corner, Emmanuel Moseley, who was inactive against Detroit due to a knee injury.
Also on the depth chart at cornerback as of Week 1 are Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir.
Sherman Could Likely Contribute Immediately to Niners if Signed
With Moseley down and Verrett possibly out for the season, Sherman would be a welcome addition to a San Francisco defense without both of its starting corners.
Having played his previous three seasons as a member of the Niners, during one of which he made a Pro Bowl, the veteran d-back knows the system in San Francisco and could theoretically step in and contribute immediately.
Sherman said publicly over the summer that he was considering resigning with the team as a free agent during the offseason, though he was weighing his options with projected winning and contract considerations each playing a key role in his decision.
“I want to get to a team that’s competing for a championship, so that’s what I’m focused on and waiting for a right opportunity,” Sherman said in an interview with Bloomberg back in June. “When it comes, that’s where I’ll be.”
The Super Bowl champion was still in the process of making his choice when he was involved in a single-vehicle hit-and-run incident and was then caught on a household security camera screaming and throwing his body into the front door of the home of his wife’s parents. The incident occurred in mid-July.
Sherman was arrested and charged with five misdemeanors. He has since apologized publicly for his behavior, while members of his family, namely his wife, have offered public support of the former 49ers defensive back in the aftermath of events.