Cornerback Chris Culliver has had four seasons of promise and disappointment with the 49ers since being drafted in the third round out of South Carolina in 2011.
He showed great progress in 2012 as the nickel corner as the Niners advanced to the Super Bowl, but then lost all of the 2013 season to injury. Then, last season, he worked his way into the starting lineup because of injury and had a decent season. In 14 starts he had four interceptions, forced a fumble, had 15 passes defensed and was in on 38 tackles.
But Culliver, 27 – who also had his share off off-the-field issues as a 49er -- is now an unrestricted free agent, and it appears more and more likely that his days in San Francisco are over.
The 49ers, with salary-cap issues, may decide to let Culliver go elsewhere – and there apparently is high interest in him from several teams.
Culliver is ranked among the best free-agent cornerbacks on the market, behind the Seahawks’ Byron Maxwell, the Chargers’ Brandon Flowers, the Texans’ Kareem Jackson, the Cardinals’ Antonio Cromartie and the Packers’ Davon House and Tramon Williams. But with some of those players expected to be re-signed by their teams, Culliver’s stock has risen.
The Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and Chicago Bears are reportedly among the teams who might make a run at Culliver.
The 49ers, meanwhile, could have some big holes to fill in the secondary, if both Culliver and Perrish Cox – who started alongside Culliver for much of 2014 – leave in free agency.