For the past two seasons, cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Dashon Goldson have been high-impact players in the 49ers’ secondary.
It’s hard to picture the Niners’ defense in 2013 without the two.
Yet in the NFL, where change is the only constant, it’s possible that both could be gone and the San Francisco secondary will have a much different look for the season opener in September.
In his offseason assessment of the Niners for NFL.com this week, Gregg Rosenthal, the website’s Around the League editor, predicted that financial considerations and performance issues could prompt the Niners to release Rogers and part with Goldson, who’s entering free agency.
“It’s no sure thing that the 49ers will use the franchise tag on Goldson again,” wrote Rosenthal. “Despite his Pro Bowl nod, there are some concerns about Goldson’s tendency to give up big plays.”
Defensively, the 49ers foursome at linebacker might be the NFL’s best, but the team no doubt will be looking for more help on the defensive line and the secondary.
Rogers has played very well since coming to the team in 2011, but over the past few games of the 2012 season and into the Super Bowl, the 49ers showed much more of a vulnerability to passing attacks, as the Falcons and Ravens showed in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. Nickel back Chris Culliver, too, was shaky at times.
“They (49ers) know they have to make upgrades in the secondary,” wrote Rosenthal.
That may mean San Francisco would be inclined to part with Rogers, who is projected to make $7.3 million in 2013.
Rosenthal reports the Niners have talked “to every top-level potential free-agent cornerback” and are willing “to make a splash” at the position through free agency and the draft. Among the possible high-profile free agents are Darrelle Revis of the Jets, Sean Smith of the Dolphins and Nnamdi Asomugha of the Eagles (and formerly the Raiders).
The 49ers do have some wiggle room under the cap but could get more with the departure of Rogers and quarterback Alex Smith (rumored to be on his way out in a trade) and kicker David Akers that would allow them to go after a top-flight cornerback.
Wrote Rosenthal: “The 49ers are as aggressive and creative as any team in the NFL.”
Meanwhile, the Niners have a wealth of draft choices – 14 now, with the possibility of more coming in a deal for Smith – that could help them add corner help via the draft.
Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group, in forecasting possible selections for the Niners with their first-round choice (31st overall), listed 10 candidates – with four of them cornerbacks. His candidates: Alabama’s DeMarcus Milliner, Washington’s Desmond Trufant, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes and Mississippi State’s Jonathan Banks (who also happens to be a fine punt returner).
Though the 49ers almost won the Super Bowl, Rosenthal expects the team to be active this offseason.
“After coming up just short of a Super Bowl title,” he wrote, “I expect the 49ers to be bold this offseason. This isn’t an organization that will stand pat.”