Tramaine Brock today was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his two-interception performance against Matt Schaub and the Texans. Brock returned one of those takeaways for a touchdown (and nearly did the same with the other). He also had excellent coverage on a deep pass later in the game that prompted a pass-interference call on a Houston wideout.
Brock's award emphasizes that San Francisco is the place to shop for teams seeking cornerbacks in March and April. Five of the 49ers' cornerbacks will be free agents at the end of the league year, including Brock, who is likely to be one of the more intriguing prospects. A look at the position as it stands now and the decisions the 49ers must make over the next five months:
Nnamdi Asomugha: The 11-year veteran signed a one-year deal with no guaranteed money in the offseason. That means if the 49ers parted ways with him, they'd owe him little. That seems unlikely even if Brock hangs onto the No. 3 job for the rest of the season. The 49ers need depth at the position and Asomugha played well enough during the preseason and early regular season. Still, he doesn't play special teams like the other Nos. 4 and 5 cornerbacks. Signed through 2013.
Tramaine Brock: If he keeps this up, Brock stands to be a big name on the free-agent market. At 5-10, 197 pounds, he isn't as big as the cornerbacks teams seem to prefer these days. But he's strong and aggressive and obviously matched up well against big and physical Andre Johnson on Sunday. Something else going for Brock: He's only 25 years old. Signed through 2013.
Tarell Brown: He's coming off his best season in the NFL, one on which he had an interception in the playoffs and a forced fumble and recovery in the Super Bowl. Teams have been attacking Brown recently. And while that's led to a string of penalties - Brown has more than any other 49er - he has not allowed any big plays. The 49ers and Brown's representatives supposedly are working to remedy a contract snafu that resulted in Brown losing $2 million. That could result in a contract extension. However, those 49ers players like Brown who have reached their contract year over the last few years have been allowed to test the market. That seems to be the plan with Brown. Signed through 2013.
Perrish Cox: He's played a limited number of snaps this season, all of them when the 49ers go to their "dime" package. Cox is big and physical enough to play inside in those formations, and along with Carlos Rogers he can play the nickel cornerback role. Cox will be a restricted free agent, and as such should be relatively easy to secure for 2014. Signed through 2013 (RFA).
Chris Culliver: He's perhaps the best lock among cornerbacks to be on the roster when training camp begins next season. Culliver suffered an ACL tear in early August and will miss this, his third season in the league in which the 49ers were hoping he'd prove to them he could step into a starting role. It's possible the team would have offered him a contract extension if he hadn't gotten injured. Culliver is young, has good size and, for now at least, is salary-cap friendly. Signed through 2014.
Darryl Morris: The undrafted rookie has played well on coverage units since being elevated to the active roster three weeks ago. Still, if the 49ers had their druthers, they would have held onto another rookie cornerback, Marcus Cooper, who is playing extensively - and playing very well - for the Chiefs. Morris could return to the practice squad when the 49ers activate Eric Wright. Signed through 2015.
Carlos Rogers: He's played very well this season and serves as the unofficial captain of the cornerbacks. Rogers, however, will be 33 next season and stands to earn $6.25 million in base salary alone. It's very difficult to see him returning for that amount. He either will have to restructure his contract or be released. Signed through 2015.
Eric Wright: The Wright experiment is about to get underway. He is set to join the team at practice on Tuesday and can be elevated to the active roster over the next three weeks from that point. The 49ers obviously like the way Wright plays and hope that after a stint in treatment this summer he has moved beyond the troubles that caused the Buccaneers to lose patience in him. The 49ers want to see whether Wright can be one of their cornerbacks of the future and will use the second half of the season to make that determination. Signed through 2013.
- Matt Barrows