Tramaine Brock’s $16 million contract extension clears up half of the 49ers’ starting cornerback picture for next season.
The deal also appears to jeopardize the futures of cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, who have started the 49ers' past 47 regular- and post-season games together.
Here's a breakdown of the future of the 49ers' cornerback positions.
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Three days before making his first start in a two-cornerback package, Tramaine Brock received the ultimate show of confidence. His $4 million average salary -- as well as $7 million guaranteed -- solidifies Brock as a starter for next season.
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Prior to this season, the 49ers approached Carlos Rogers about taking a pay cut from his $5.75 million pay. Rogers was told that if he did not accept the salary slash it would not guarantee that he would be released. But, he was told, if he did accept the lesser contract, he would not have to worry about his spot on the team.
Rogers rolled the dice and won. After Chris Culliver went down with a season-ending knee injury in training camp, the 49ers simply could not afford to part ways with Rogers.
Rogers’ scheduled salary for next season jumps to $6.5 million, including a $250,000 roster bonus. With the salary cap expected to remain virtually static, the 49ers are not likely to be willing to invest that much next season in Rogers, who will turn 33 years old in July.
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The four-year, $16 million contract that Brock signed on Friday is what the 49ers were willing to pay Tarell Brown. One source said the 49ers would’ve awarded Brown $8 million in guaranteed money, as opposed to the $7 million that Brock received.
Brown was originally scheduled to earn nearly $3 million this season, so the average increase of $1 million annually on a four-year deal was not enough to get a deal done as he approached free agency.
Brown has played this season as one of the team’s lowest-paid players after he unknowingly forfeited a contract escalator and lost $2 million in salary this season. Brown met every requirement to earn a $2.925 million salary . . . except for the easiest one to fulfill. His former agent, Brian Overstreet, failed to point out to Brown he had to take part in the offseason workout program.
On the day the 49ers reported to training camp, Brown found out via news reports that his salary would tumble to a near-minimum level. In the immediate aftermath, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, "(I) just think there's a solution there.”
But the sides have not been able to reach a solution. Now, the contract originally slotted to go to Brown has gone to Brock. And Brown is out indefinitely with a ribs injury. If Brock plays well in Brown’s space, the 49ers can be expected to keep Brock in the starting lineup.
As reported three weeks ago, the 49ers and Brown have not made any progress toward a contract extension. And it seems to be a near-certainty he will become a free agent after this season.
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Chris Culliver was in position to be a starter this season before he sustained a torn ACL in his left knee on Aug. 1 during training camp. He continues to rehab, and he is on pace to be cleared during the team’s offseason program.
Culliver is signed through the 2014 season. If he returns to the form he showed for most of his first two seasons as the No. 3 cornerback, he could win the starting job opposite of Brock.
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Baalke likes veteran cornerback Eric Wright as a player and as a person. Wright has taken steps to get his off-field life in order, and now he will see a lot of time as the team’s No. 3 cornerback with Brown out of action.
The sides have built up some good trust, and Wright does not figure to get much attention on the free-agent market. So it's a reasonable assumption the 49ers can bring him back next season on a team-friendly contract. Wright’s performance in the next few weeks might determine his future with the 49ers.
“I really haven’t thought about it, “ Wright told CSNBayArea.com. “I’m a free agent at the end of the year, along with a number of other guys. And that’s typically something you don’t think about until the season is over with. You have a goal in mind for this team. I think it’s universal in this locker room. We have tunnel vision on what’s immediately in front of us, and that’s the Redskins.”
Wright is a versatile player who is comfortable handling the slot duties, which is a role Rogers has held since his arrival in 2011.
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Rookie Darryl Morris has done a very good job on special teams since his promotion from the practice squad on Sept. 24. The undrafted speedster from Texas State could compete for playing time next season.
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Recent history has shown the 49ers have a difficult time evaluating draft-eligible wide receivers. However, they’ve done a very good job of pin-pointing defensive backs. They will have plenty of opportunities to add more young defensive backs next season.
The 49ers currently own 13 draft picks (including at least one expected compensatory selection). With three scheduled picks within the first two rounds, it seems to be a good bet that one of those selections will be a cornerback.
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