The 49ers are not resigned to losing cornerback Tarell Brown in free agency and have had "ongoing conversations" about a new deal with Brown, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The 49ers already signed one of their pending free agents, Anquan Boldin, for the upcoming season. Brown, safety Donte Whitner and kicker Phil Dawson are three others the team would like to lock up. But with free agency only five days away, all three likely will test their worth on the open market.
Last year was a rough one for Brown, 29. He unknowingly forfeited a $2 million workout bonus by training in his native Texas instead of Santa Clara. He also suffered a rib injury Nov. 17 that caused him to miss three games and allowed Tramaine Brock to take over as the starter. Brown, however, started all three of the 49ers' playoff games.
The forfeited bonus did not sour Brown on a possible return to San Francisco. The 49ers, meanwhile, have all sorts of question marks at the position, ranging from Chris Culliver's ACL injury (He is expected to make a full recovery) to Carlos Rogers' team-high salary cap figure (The 49ers are expected to ask him to reduce his salary).
Brown has started for the last three seasons, and having him for 2014 would bring some veteran stability to an otherwise young secondary. He also is a possible replacement for Rogers at nickel cornerback if Rogers does not return in 2014. Former general manager Bill Polian lists Brown as one of the three top three free agents-to-be at his position in a ranking he helped create for ESPN.
Brock signed a four-year, $16 million deal during the season. Miami recently signed cornerback Ben Grimes, 30, to a four-year, $32 million contract. Like Brown, Grimes was set to become a free agent.
The 49ers also have been discussing a new contract for Whitner. The free-agency period begins Tuesday, but other teams can begin courting pending free agents on Saturday.
-- Matt Barrows