The 49ers today inked Tramaine Brock to a four-year, $16 million contract extension. And in so doing, they gave a bit of clarity to what had been a very murky cornerback situation in 2014 and beyond. Brock, 25, who had been scheduled to be a free agent, leads the 49ers with four interceptions, which also ties him for second in the NFL. His age and his contract suggest that he'll be a strong contender for a starting cornerback spot moving forward.
Who are the other cornerback contenders? Here's the situation:
Tarell Brown. Age: 28
The team's starting cornerback for the past three seasons is dealing with a rib injury that will allow Brock to make his second-ever start on Monday against the Redskins. (Brock technically started the Oct. 6 game against Houston because the Texans used three receivers on first down). After an oversight by both Brown's former agent and, if you believe them, the 49ers cost Brown a $2 million workout bonus, the two sides tried to hammer out a contract extension. I've been told that at one point there was an offer similar to the one that Brock signed. That doesn't mean that Brown, a starter for the last three seasons, is gone at the end of the year but it suggests he'll test his worth in free agency in March.
Chris Culliver. Age: 25
The 49ers still have high expectations for Culliver despite the ACL tear he suffered Aug. 1. He is nearing the halfway mark as far as recovery from that injury, and the hope is that he will be one of the players competing for a starting spot in training camp. Culliver will be entering the final year of his contract next season.
Darryl Morris. Age 23.
The undrafted rookie from Texas State may be the fastest player on the team, and that speed has been an asset on special teams coverage units this season. Morris will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the cornerback rotation in the coming offseason. He made strides this year but must make similar gains in 2014 to earn more than an ancillary role.
Carlos Rogers. Age 32.
He hasn't missed a single game since joining the 49ers in 2011 and has been the captain of the cornerbacks if not the secondary itself. His knowledge and savvy enabled him to play the tricky nickel cornerback position, which seems to increase in importance every season as offenses become more pass happy. Still, Rogers is due to earn $6.5 million in base salary alone next season, and it's extremely unlikely the 49ers will keep him at that cost.
Eric Wright. Age 28.
Another reason the 49ers might feel comfortable releasing Rogers? Like Rogers, Wright has experience at both cornerback and inside in the nickel position. Like Brown, Wright will be a free agent at the end of this season. When the Buccaneers released him this summer, however, he had few suitors. He is a San Francisco native, and he might be easy to re-sign. If Wright plays well and stays out of trouble, he seems likely to be in the future mix for the 49ers.
Rookie. Age: young.
The 49ers expect to have 13 picks in the 2014 draft. It stands to reason that their top two priorities will be wide receiver and cornerback. The draft appears to be strong in both.
-- Matt Barrows