NFC West: Chris Culliver

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Before being pulled off Levi’s Stadium’s loose grass field less than an hour after practice began by coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers did go through the paces for a bit in front of a couple thousand fans.

A few highlights, then, of the 49ers' final public practice.
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still not in attendance, as he was in Texas the day before for the birth of his son Michael III.
  • Even before the public practice was cut short, the poor condition of the field was obvious, from divots flying out when players made cuts to the discolored spots in the middle of the field. And if Bruce Ellington tweaking his right ankle in a one-on-one drill with cornerback Chris Culliver was not proof enough, then Stevie Johnson taking a spill untouched on an out pattern at the goal line and jerking his left leg sealed it.
  • Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history, continued to work on his craft after missing a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos by kicking numerous field goals. If Andy Lee was not holding, then Dawson had a metal holder in his place so he could work solo.
  • Ellington, LaMichael James and veteran Anquan Boldin were the three players fielding punts.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock picked off McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass intended for David Reed on the right sideline and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick’s salary cap-friendly contract extension was constructed that way, in part, to help free up money for the San Francisco 49ers to lock up other key cogs on the roster.

But with right guard Alex Boone’s holdout waged on, the 49ers quarterback was asked if he would like for some of that money to go to Boone.

“I think that’s something that the front office, that’s their decision,” Kaepernick said. “For me, I tried to do something where we gave them space to be able to get players back now. Who they sign and what they do with it is really up to them.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh would not touch the topic.

“As always, we don’t talk about contracts publically,” Harbaugh said. “Rarely do we talk about it in any form or fashion. We don’t feel it’s in anybody’s best interest to do that.”

While starters like running back Frank Gore, receiver Michael Crabtree, left guard Mike Iupati and cornerback Chris Culliver are entering contract years, Boone was signed to a four-year extension on Dec. 8, 2011, that runs through the 2015 season. Boone did not take part in any of the team's offseason activities and is subject to a $30,000 a day fine, per CSNBayArea.com.

The 49ers have more than $8.2 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Examining the San Francisco 49ers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)

Because of heavy competition elsewhere, the 49ers will likely only carry two quarterbacks. They finished last season that way. The competition will be to see if undrafted rookie Kory Faulkner can take McLeod Bethel-Thompson's spot on the practice squad.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The fact that the 49ers drafted Hyde in the second round and Lattimore is healthy means some tough decisions will have to be made. Hunter is too valuable to let go. That means 2012 second-round pick LaMichael James will have difficulty making the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

The 49ers are so much deeper here this year than last. That means they will likely have to keep six receivers. Lloyd may look good and Patton has too much potential to give up on. That means it could be tough for Kassim Osgood to make it even though he is a special teams cog.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

If Davis ends his holdout, I can't see the 49ers keeping more than three tight ends because of the glut at receiver. Unless Garrett Celek has a big camp, he may be in trouble. Carrier intrigues the 49ers because of his size and speed.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Assuming Boone ends his holdout, this is a pretty nice group of eight players. It's improved from last year. A solid veteran like Adam Snyder and a promising youngster like Ryan Seymour will have trouble making the team.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

This is another power spot. It's deep. Players like Jerod-Eddie and Dial are too valuable to cut. Ramsey has looked good and I have a hunch the 49ers may like him too much to expose him to the waiver wire. That means Demarcus Dobbs could be in trouble.

LINEBACKERS (7)

Most teams carry six linebackers but the 49ers are stacked here, especially with NaVorro Bowman out for about half the season. Because fifth-round pick Lynch is promising he should make the roster. Dan Skuta is an excellent player, but there might not be any room for him. I could see him being one of those later-summer Trent Baalke trade specials because he has value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

This unit is in flux, but I see Johnson making it. Don't be surprised if there is some in-camp jockeying as the 49ers look for the best mix.

SAFETIES (5)

Ward, the 49ers' first-round pick, will play nickel cornerback as a rookie, but projects long term as a safety. Ventrone and Spillman should stick because they are great on special teams. Craig Dahl could be in trouble.

SPECIALISTS (3):

This group is set and it's excellent.
The San Francisco 49ers will have their mandatory minicamp from Tuesday-Thursday. Here’s some things to watch for:

Davis
Boone
Will Davis and Boone show? Both tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone have stayed away from the voluntary portion of the offseason. That’s over. Starting Tuesday, everything the 49ers do as a team is mandatory and each player can be fined if they aren’t present. Davis has said he “should be” at the minicamp. Boone has not said a word publicly about his plans. However, I’ve gotten the sense Boone is prepared not to show up until he gets a new deal. If neither player is at practice Tuesday, they will be holdouts and the stakes will change with their absences.

The cornerbacks: This is the biggest position of change. Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are gone. Chris Culliver will start, but he is still working back from a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season. He should be fine for camp, but don’t expect him to go full-go in this camp. First-round pick Jimmie Ward is set to be the nickelback, but he is coming off a foot injury. He should be ready for training camp. A player of note in the minicamp is free-agent pickup Chris Cook. He will be in the rotation. Cook, who signed from Minnesota, has ideal size. He has looked good in the OTA sessions.

Offensive line: This unit, the pride and joy of the 49ers, should be fine in the long run, but it’s a little rough right now. Boone has been absent. Right tackle Anthony Davis is recovering from a shoulder injury and won’t be there until camp. Daniel Kilgore is taking over from Jonathan Goodwin and trying to hold off rookie Marcus Martin at center. Again, things will settle down, but don’t expect a well-oiled unit this week.

Passing game: Most of the receivers have been out during the voluntary sessions, mostly as precautions or for minor injuries. The passing game was rough in the OTA session that was open to the media last Tuesday. I’d expect to see more receivers during this camp, which is vital to help rhythm with quarterback Colin Kaepernick heading into training camp.

Inside linebackers: NaVorro Bowman is expected to be out until midseason as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Wilhoite has the inside shot to start for Bowman, but he will have to hold off Nick Moody and third-round pick Chris Borland.

Pass-rushers: Aldon Smith may face an NFL suspension. The 49ers need some extra pass-rush help. Keys to watch in camp is defensive lineman Tank Carradine, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and second-year player Corey Lemonier, who looks like he’s added several pounds of muscle. The 49ers would love to see these two young players show a burst in this camp.

Marcus Lattimore: The 49ers are slowly bringing along the 2013 fourth-round draft pick. He has done some things in the OTA session, including showing nice hands out of the backfield. I wouldn’t expect Lattimore to go full-go in this camp, but the 49ers want to see continued comfort, speed and confidence from Lattimore, whom they hope can help this season.
There's little doubt the San Francisco 49ers' biggest question area is at cornerback because of all the flux this offseason.

So the fact two veteran cornerbacks were released Friday can't go unnoticed. Kansas City cut Brandon Flowers and Detroit jettisoned Chris Houston. Flowers is likely more intriguing because he has been the better player, while Houston is coming off an injury.
Flowers
Could the 49ers make a run at Flowers?

Ultimately, I'd expect Flowers to get a better deal elsewhere. But I could see the 49ers considering the idea. They have some salary cap room and as previously mentioned, there are questions at the position.

Still, a pursuit of Flowers wouldn't necessarily be a certainty. Flowers is 5-foot-9 and the 49ers are trying to get bigger and more physical at the position. Plus, even though the 49ers have questions at cornerback, there are pretty full there.

Chris Culliver, coming off a torn ACL, is expected to start opposite Tramaine Brock after Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers departed this offseason. First-round pick Jimmie Ward will play the nickel cornerback. The 49ers also have veteran Chris Cook, Eric Wright and Perrish Cox and drafted three rookie cornerback (one, Keith Reaser, is not play because of an injury).

If the 49ers are nervous about what they've seen so far in the offsason they could make a run at Flowers, but I'm not sure they will think it's worth the financial investment.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Patrick Willis may have a slightly different look in the first half of the upcoming season.

Willis
During Tuesday's organized team activity, Willis was playing the "Mike" inside linebacker spot usually occupied by NaVorro Bowman in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. Bowman is likely out until midway through the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Wilhoite, the leading candidate to take Bowman's spot in the staring lineup, took most of the first-team repetitions Tuesday in the "Jack" inside linebacker spot Willis played last year.

Willis said the change may stick for the season. It is just a subtle change and he is comfortable there because he has played in the spot before. Willis said it is still strange being on the field without his fellow inside-linebacker star Bowman.

In other 49ers' notes:
  • Star tight end Vernon Davis and standout guard Alex Boone continued to stay away from the voluntary session as they have all offseason. They are both unhappy with their contract. Neither player will be considered a holdout until they miss the June 17-19 mandatory minicamp. Second-year tight end Vance McDonald is starting at tight end with Davis gone. McDonald appreciates the extra reps, but admitted this about Davis: "I miss the dude." Joe Looney is working in Boone's right guard spot.
  • The 49ers cut guard Al Netter to make room for special teamer Blake Costanzo on the 90-man roster.
  • Veteran defensive end Justin Smith and running back Frank Gore were onlookers during the meat of the workout. Like Gore, cornerback Chris Culliver participated in early warm-ups and the did not participate in team drills.
  • The 49ers named Dr. Fergus Connolly director of elite performance. Connolly will work intimately with football operations to develop innovative sports and performance science practices geared towards player welfare and performance optimization. He spent the last three years as a performance consultant to teams in the NFL, NBA, English Premier League and professional rugby.
  • Because several receivers were out for various reasons, reserve quarterback Josh Johnson played receiver in some drills. And he didn't look too bad. But don't expect him to change positions. It's just an emergency deal.
  • Among the banged up receivers are Steve Johnson (hamstring) and Quinton Patton (foot). Both injures are considered minor at this point. Like he did last week, Brandon Lloyd had a strong day. Chuck Jacobs, who spent last season in the practice squad, was very active Tuesday.
  • The quarterback whisperer, 49ers' head coach Jim Harbaugh, spent some one-on-one time with undrafted rookie quarterback Kory Faulkner early in Tuesday's practice.
With organized team activities in full swing for the San Francisco 49ers, the biggest on-field question the team must answer is at cornerback.

The team is undergoing a major transformation at the position. Two of their top three cornerbacks last season -- Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown -- departed this offseason. Rogers was cut and Brown left in free agency. Both signed are now with Oakland.

Tramaine Brock, who was superb last season after starting camp as a special teamer, has emerged as the team's best cornerback. Chris Culliver, who could be subject to an NFL suspension after a felony arrest this offseason, is set to start. He played well in 2012, but missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Rookie Jimmie Ward, the team's first-round pick, is a safety, but he will play the nickel cornerback spot this year. He has experience there. Veterans Eric Wright and newly signed Chris Cook and second-year player Darryl Morris are among those who also have a chance at playing time. ESPN's Matt Williamson believes Cook, a former second-round pick who failed to live up to expectations with the Vikings, can improve as a 49er. He is big and physical and a good fit for the defense.

While there are question marks, the truth is, the 49ers were looking to move away from Rogers and Brown and think this can be an upgraded spot. The 49ers are very confident with their defensive coaching staff. Brock developed quickly and their cornerbacks this year can thrive as well.

In the long-term, this position is still a work in progress. Culliver is a free agent after the season and Ward is a long-term safety. The 49ers will likely add to this position next year and hope recent draft picks, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Ken Acker can help next year. Johnson could even figure in this year's plan.

Again, this position will be a storyline all summer, but the 49ers are comfortable with it at this point.

49ers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the San Francisco 49ers' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeStevie Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesThe 49ers added depth to their receiving corps by acquiring Stevie Johnson.
Best move: Making offense a priority. The 49ers' re-signed receiver Anquan Boldin and kicker Phil Dawson in a free agency in which they signed only two outside veterans. During the draft, they added veteran receiver Stevie Johnson in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, then drafted a tumbling Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde in the second round. This offense now has a lot of firepower. These moves really solidified the unit.

Riskiest move: Change in the secondary. The 49ers will have three new starters in the secondary after seeing safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Tarell Brown leave in free agency and after cutting Carlos Rogers. Whitner was the only one the 49ers had interest in keeping, but he was too pricey. The 49ers made a nice move of bringing in a comparable player -- safety Antoine Bethea from the Colts. Chris Culliver, who was injured in 2013, and first-round pick Jimmie Ward will play in the nickel. I think these changes should work well, especially since the meat of the 49ers' defense is the front seven. But when there are such wholesale changes, it's a question mark.

Most surprising move: Making 12 draft picks. The 49ers entered the draft with 11 picks, but with few needs. Yet the 49ers ended up with 12, which was tied for most in the NFL. I don't think more than seven or eight of the draft picks have a chance to make this stacked roster. Of course, the 49ers took a few injured players to stash, which only helps the entire program. It's difficult to imagine a deeper team than San Francisco in the league.

Receiver depth: I cannot emphasize this enough -- it's stunning how much depth the 49ers now have at receiver when compared to last season. With Michael Crabtree hurt for much of the year, the 49ers received virtually no production from the position other than from Boldin. Now, the 49ers are loaded at with Boldin, Crabtree, Johnson, second-year player Quinton Patton (who missed much of the season with a broken foot) and speedy fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington. This is the biggest difference on the team.

Biggest 49ers questions

May, 19, 2014
May 19
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With the NFL draft over and the offseason programs in full swing, let’s look at the three biggest questions facing the San Francisco 49ers:

Kaepernick/Harbaugh contracts: These have been questions all offseason and they linger. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is entering the final year of his contract, while coach Jim Harbaugh has two years remaining. There is a chance both can get done before training camp, yet there is also a solid chance both go through the season without a deal. Could it be a distraction? Perhaps, because it will certainly be a topic for media and fans if there isn't clarity before the season starts.

Aldon Smith: The 49ers are waiting for Smith’s legal issues to be resolved and if he has to serve an NFL suspension in 2014. It is a real possibility. The 49ers went 5-0 last year with Smith when he was in a treatment center for substance abuse. The 49ers are preparing to play without him again.

The cornerbacks: This is one of the few positions where the 49ers have on-field questions. The team is preparing to use Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver as the starting cornerbacks and their first-round pick -- safety Jimmie Ward -- as the nickel cornerback. They have several players vying to be the backups. The biggest question is whether Culliver, who like Smith is dealing with off-field issues, can come back from a torn knee that kept him out all of last season. The team believes he is up for the task.
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers were supposed to be powerbrokers of the first round.

Everyone was expecting them to go make the big move for a top-end receiver in an effort to compete with Super Bowl champion -- and heated NFC West rival -- Seattle.

Instead, the 49ers ended up addressing their one true need -- albeit in an unexpected way.

Instead of trading up for stud LSU receiver Odell Beckham or taking one of the glamour cornerbacks, the 49ers grabbed Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick.

At first glance, it smacked of a curious reach. Yes, Ward was a scout's favorite, but he was considered more of a second-round pick. And he played a position the 49ers made their biggest offseason investment at -- by signing veteran Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $23 million deal.

With receivers Cody Latimer and Marqise Lee still on the board, picking Ward did not initially appear to make much sense. But after digesting the pick, I could see why the 49ers made this pick.

The 49ers' benchmark is defense. With star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman out until about midseason with a torn ACL and star linebacker Aldon Smith's future clouded by a potential NFL suspension, the 49ers need to keep their edge in the early season.

This move should ensure they stay stout in the secondary. In addition to safety Donte Whitner (who Bethea replaces), the 49ers parted ways with their second and third cornerbacks -- Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers -- this offseason. Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver are expected to start.

The 49ers want to see Ward become the nickel. He played there often at Northern Illinois. Some teams are using safeties as a nickel and it seems the 49ers are going that route.

There were rumblings the 49ers didn't like any of the four cornerbacks that went in the first round -- Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett. They had the means to trade up and pick any of them and didn't.

Instead, they eyed the hard-hitting, competitive and smart Ward.

This may be out of the box, but it seems like a 49ers move. Having Reid, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie last season, the steady Bethea and Ward on the field together makes this a strong secondary.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke raved about Ward's competitive nature. Coach Jim Harbaugh simply said: "He loves football."

Baalke, who saw Ward play live once, said it was telling that when he asked scouts which games of Ward's he should watch, multiple scouts said, "Pick one." It was Ward's consistency that stood out to the 49ers.

Ward, who had the second most interceptions in the country last season with seven, led his team in tackles and interceptions the past two seasons. Baalke doesn't think coming from a smaller conference will be too much for Ward.

"The stage isn't too big for him," Baalke said.

Ward showed he had the mental toughness for the NFL when he ran for scouts with a broken foot, which is expected to be completely healed by training camp. Ward posted a 4.48 40-time on a bad wheel. That made Baalke smile.

The 49ers may not have stolen headlines with this pick, but they did add a key component to what makes them the 49ers -- an ornery defense.
Initial thoughts on the arrest of San Francisco 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith Sunday at the Los Angeles International Airport:

Troubling times: The arrest is the latest in a string of legal issues for the team, considered a favorite to make a run at the 2015 Super Bowl. Two weeks ago, starting cornerback Chris Culliver was arrested after a hit-and-run accident involving a bicyclist. He has been charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. Thursday, it was reported quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Quinton Patton are being investigated as part of an incident in Miami involving a 25-year-old woman. Kaepernick took to Twitter to deny any wrongdoing. Kaepernick and Smith are two of the 49ers’ best players and the team wants to keep both for the long haul. Seeing headlines like these has to be beyond worrisome for the club.

Smith
What’s Smith’s future? Because he was a first-round pick in 2011, the 49ers must decide by May 3 whether or not to give Smith an option for 2015. It was previously considered a no-brainer for the 49ers to lock in Smith, one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL, for another season. If not, he will be a free agent at the end of this season. However, his latest arrest -- he has two other pending criminal cases -- will likely make the 49ers think about the option. The 49ers have other contracts looming (including Kaepernick's). If they feel they can’t trust Smith, they may not exercise the option, which would pay him more than $9 million in 2015. Smith missed five games last season (the team went 5-0 without him) when he sought treatment for substance abuse. The team has vowed to stand by him as long as he continued to stay straight off the field. It’s another reason why this arrest is so troubling.

League discipline is in play: The 49ers may have to play without Smith for a portion of this season. This latest incident could trigger discipline from the NFL. The league did not suspend Smith after the September arrest on a drunk driving charge. In October, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the fact that Smith voluntarily sought treatment could play a role in him not getting a suspension. I’m sure the league office is not pleased to see Smith in custody again.
If the San Francisco 49ers want to add a veteran presence at cornerback in light of the Chris Culliver arrest, they might want to act fast.

Carlos Rogers, who the 49ers cut earlier this offseason, signed with the Oakland Raiders on Monday night. The 49ers did not completely close the door on bringing back Rogers, according to a league source, but they didn't make much of a move toward doing so before he signed with the Raiders.

The top veteran available cornerback on the market, Champ Bailey, is taking an undisclosed visit Monday, according the source. The 49ers, who currently have $4.1 million in salary cap room, have not yet shown interest in Bailey.

Bailey could be interesting to the team because they are pretty young at the position and they could use some veteran leadership. Culliver was arrested on felony hit-and-run and weapons possession charges Friday in San Jose. He could face a league suspension.

The 49ers are expected to use a high draft pick on the position.
Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' three-year extension through 2017 of fullback Bruce Miller on Thursday:

Miller
Smart move: These are the types of signings good teams make. Miller was to be a free agent next year. But as they did with center Daniel Kilgore, the 49ers secured Miler early.

Miller is one of the best fullbacks in the NFL. He is very versatile. He is an outstanding blocker and a reason why the 49ers move the ball so well on the ground. He also has a role as a receiver and as a short-yardage back. He is only getting better. San Francisco missed Miller when he broke his scapula in Week 15 and was out for the rest of the season. Miller said Thursday he is completely healthy.

Popular move: The former seventh-round pick is a great player off the field. He is very popular in the locker room. Teammates love his work effort. He's the type of guy who mixes well with every part of the locker room. He is also a fan favorite for the same qualities. Again, this is the type of player who teams keep.

Switch worked: Miller was a defensive end at Central Florida. He had no idea he'd become a fullback -- until 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman called him the day before the draft.

The next thing Miller knew he was being taken by the 49ers in the seventh round and moving to the other side of the ball. It kind of worked out nicely.

“It's been a long journey and a lot of hard work,” Miller said Thursday. “But it's been blast and I couldn't have planned it out any better than what has happened.”

Culliver likely next: Don't be stunned if the 49ers work out an early deal with cornerback Chris Culliver. They have designated him as a priority as they did with Miller. There will be high-dollar discussions with Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati to deal with next year as well, but Culliver, like Miller, may be easier to do. Also like Miller, it would be smart to secure a solid, young player like Culliver.
No position on the San Francisco 49ers has more uncertainty than cornerback -- and it's not even close.

The team only has one solid starter in place, but there are several players who could emerge. Of course, the 49ers could add a cornerback in a dwindling free-agent market and will surely pick one or two in the May 8-10 draft.

Let's take a look at where the 49ers stand at cornerback:

Brock
Starters:

Tramaine Brock: A year ago, no one would have guess he would be the most reliable cornerback on the team. But Brock made the huge leap from a special teams to the No. 1 cornerback. He was terrific in 2013 and it earned him a four-year contract extension.

Chris Culliver: This is very fluid. The 49ers have confidence in Culliver, but, in a perfect world, he will play the nickel. Culliver, who has proven in the past he can play, missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Still, he's the type of player who would likely be a better No. 3 than a No. 2.

Slot candidates:

Eric Wright: The veteran is talented and has performed well in the past. Yet, he didn't do much last season. It was a mild surprise the 49ers re-signed him to a one-year deal. Wright, who was inactive by the end of the season, has a chance to help if he can gain the coaching staff's trust.

Cook
Chris Cook: He is the 49ers' lone offseason addition at the position so far. Cook, a second-round pick by Minnesota in 2010, has struggled at times -- on and off the field. But there are some positives; he's 6-foot-2 and the team wants him to play in press coverage. Also, he came at a cheap price, getting paid the league minimum with no bonus. Perhaps the light will come on with strong coaching.

Young players with potential:

Darryl Morris: He opened eyes on special teams as an undrafted rookie last season. Coaches think he can help on defense, too.

Dax Swanson: He's a practice-squad player who will get a chance to impress in training camp.

Departed:

Tarell Brown: Brown, a starter much of last season, went across the bay to Oakland for a one-year, $3.5 million deal. The 49ers wanted him back, but not at that price. He is solid and must be replaced.

Carlos Rogers: Cut by the 49ers, there's always a chance he could be brought back at a much reduced price. But I think the 49ers would like to move on.

Cox
Still possible:

Perrish Cox: It's telling that Wright was signed before he was. But similar to Rogers' situation, I guess the door can't be completely closed.

Potential future additions:

The remaining free-agent market is not overly enticing. The top players are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Antonio Cromartie. Others include Champ Bailey and Jabari Greer. Rodgers-Cromartie would be a good fit, but he wants too much money. The good news for the 49ers is the draft is stacked at this position and they could easily find a starting-quality player in the early rounds.

Conclusion:

The 49ers need to add here and they will probably do it through the draft. If they get the right player, they should be fine. Having players like Culliver, Wright and Cook as a rotation player is not a terrible situation. The key will be, whoever is brought on to the team, he must be ready to contribute right away.
Tarell Brown tweeted Sunday morning about getting a massage and of his plan to barbecue. Brown has reason to be in a festive mood.

Brown
There is reason to believe the cornerback market will be robust in free agency a year after the market struggled. Green Bay re-signed cornerback Sam Shields to a whopping four-year, $39 million deal Saturday. Miami recently signed Brent Grimes, who suffered in free agency last year, to a big extension as well.

If that trend continues, Brown should benefit when free agency starts Tuesday. While the cornerback position is filled with some strong players, ESPN analyst Bill Polian ranks Brown at the top of the available players at the position.

If just one NFL team agrees with Polian, the 49ers will have difficulty keeping him. The 49ers want Brown back, but they will likely not be willing to give him a huge deal with bigger contracts on the horizon for the team. If Brown signs elsewhere, the team will likely have Chris Culliver, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, compete for a starting job. The 49ers would also likely have to add an inexpensive veteran and use an early draft pick on a cornerback.

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