Even for a franchise that bolstered one key position this offseason by signing Charvarius Ward, re-signing Jason Verrett and drafting both Samuel Womack and Tariq Castro-Fields, there’s still the belief that the 49ers can add one more significant piece to fully solidify the cornerback spot.
Who is that defender mentioned by Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, June 29? It’s an unsigned three-time Pro Bowler.
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Free Agent Cornerback is Familiar with 1 49ers Defender
Xavier Rhodes is one cornerback who “could be worth a look” by the 49ers, writes Tansey.
Rhodes was last seen with the Indianapolis Colts, where he started in 13 games and ended up swatting seven passes while tacking on 39 tackles, 32 solo stops and one interception — which was versus the ‘Niners.
Along with that score at Levi’s Stadium, he has pulled off pick sixes before:
And he played in a Colts secondary that featured another key 2022 free agent signing for S.F. in 2020 Pro Bowler George Odum.
On Rhodes’ end, it wasn’t long ago when he forced a dismal completion percentage on opposing quarterbacks who tested his side.
“Xavier Rhodes is one year removed from having a 51.9 completion percentage against him,” Tansey wrote. “The former Minnesota and Indianapolis cornerback could be worth a look to bolster San Francisco’s depth at the position.”
Even with some changes via the free agent market and draft, Tansey believes that’s not enough.
“The 49ers signed Charvarius Ward in the offseason as their big defensive free agent, but the position could still be seen as their biggest defensive weakness because of the lack of star power,” Tansey said. “Emmanuel Moseley, Darqueze Dennard and others will be asked to fill in the spots behind Ward on the depth chart, but the team could use one more veteran player to feel safe about its secondary in a division with so many talented wide receivers.”
Is There Room for Rhodes?
There was a time when the Florida State great Rhodes established himself as among the elite tier of cover defenders in the league.
Per Pro Football Reference, the 6-foot-1, 218-pounder broke up between 10 to 18 passes in his first five seasons in the league with the Minnesota Vikings — the 18 PBUs coming in his second season in the league. He also snatched 10 of his 13 career interceptions in a Vikings uniform. And all three of his Pro Bowl nods came in the Twin Cities.
But what could prevent the 49ers from adding Rhodes?
“Rhodes’ age is his downside,” Tansey said. “At 32, he may not find many suitors before training camp, and younger (free agent) options, such as Kevin King, Pierre Desir and Desmond Trufant, may be considered by teams before him.”
Tansey added that Rhodes has seen a production decline in the pass breakup and opposing completion percentage category.
“The three-time Pro Bowler had 19 passes defended in two seasons with the Colts. He allowed a 60.7 completion percentage last season after his 51.9 percent total in 2019,” Tansey said.
But Rhodes does have this in his favor: The 49ers have been no stranger to luring in veteran Pro Bowl cornerbacks who were either nearing or were in their 30s. Notable names include Verrett, Josh Norman and Richard Sherman.
Plus, in a division with Pro Bowl wideouts galore, that adds to the final primary reason why Rhodes has been labeled a potential late option in the Bay Area.
“Rhodes could be a solid addition to the 49ers’ pass coverage, and the signing may pay off for a team that needs its secondary to play well against the likes of Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf and DeAndre Hopkins in eight games,” Tansey said.