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The addition of cornerback Carlos Rogers was one of the most significant acquisitions made by the 49ers last summer, but now it appears the team may let Rogers walk away.
Or, at least, the team is determined to play a game of chicken to see if it can retain Rogers at a less expensive price than what he’s seeking.
Rogers, 30, was selected to the Pro Bowl after his 2011 season in San Francisco after signing a one-year deal as a free agent following six seasons with the Washington Redskins. He started 16 games, tied for the team lead in interceptions with six, had 18 passes defensed and helped solidify a secondary that was a weak spot in 2010.
But now, Rogers is a free agent once again and, as Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday, the Niners appear ready to let the unrestricted free agent test the market when the free agency period begins Tuesday.
Though Rogers has said he wants to return to San Francisco, and the 49ers initially appeared very interested in retaining him, the team apparently wants to take a chance on letting Rogers walk away. If he tests free agency and gets a big offer to go elsewhere, so be it. If he tests free agency and finds the offers for his services are lower than he anticipated, he may re-sign with the Niners.
As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted this week, it may be unlikely that Rogers will garner a lucrative, multi-year deal because of his age.
If Rogers does leave, the 49ers’ third-round pick from last season, Chris Culliver, may get the chance to win the job opposite the other starter, Tarell Brown. Or, the team could seek a veteran through free agency or take a cornerback with its first-round pick in the April draft, the 30th overall.
It could be a gamble.
As the Chronicle’s Lynch notes, “While Rogers isn’t likely to intercept six passes annually, he’s a solid corner, which is a valuable commodity in an increasingly pass-first league. Corners are also hard to find and while the team is high on fellow starter Tarell Brown and youngsters Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock, you can’t have enough cover men.”
In 2011, Rogers reportedly played on a one-year deal worth about $4.25 million. In October, Rogers told reporter Matt Maiocco that he had given his agent the OK to work on a contract extension with San Francisco. At that time, it seemed probable that Rogers would stay with the team for quite a while. But Rogers’ interest in securing a long-term deal of four to five years at a price equal to the top corners in the league apparently has swayed the Niners’ braintrust to gamble and hope they can retain him at a lower price and for fewer years.
“This is where I want to be,” Rogers told the Chronicle’s Eric Branch in January.
Now, several weeks later, his future is very much uncertain.