The start of free agency is just over five weeks away, meanwhile, we're about two months shy of the 2022 NFL Draft. However, over the course of the next several weeks, pundits will continue to assess teams' offseason needs and targets as the NFL calendar begins turning to the 2022 season.
With the San Francisco 49ers 2021 campaign in the rearview, pundits have begun to review areas for improvement for the club this offseason. ESPN.com and football analytics site Pro Football Focus both compiled preliminary lists of offseason needs and priorities for all 32 NFL teams, believing the 49ers should focus on shoring up their secondary.
Here's what ESPN NFL reporter Nick Wagoner had to say:
Acquire a cornerback.
The Niners do have some intriguing young talent at the position, namely Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas, but they need to make a significant investment, preferably in the form of an established veteran. San Francisco's pass defense was fine in terms of regular counting stats, but racked up a league-leading amount of pass interference penalties. Given the talent the Niners have in their front seven, another strong starting corner could take their defense back to an elite level, similar to 2019.
Cornerback has been dicey for San Francisco this season, and it never hurts to keep adding at the position, considering how important it is to defensive success. The Niners ranked 23rd among the 32 NFL teams in cornerback coverage grade. The tough part about this need: There isn't a lot of cap space to use, and they won't be picking until late in the second round for their first selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Injuries plagued San Francisco early last season. After completing his first 13-game season since 2015, the 49ers lost veteran corner Jason Verrett in the season opener to an ACL injury and were forced to lean on their younger backs to help fill his void. The team signed Josh Norman at the beginning of the season to add veteran depth at the position.
Rookie Deommodore Lenoir saw action in seven games, meanwhile Thomas continued to develop as the year progressed, starting seven of the final eight games of San Francisco's season (missed Divisional Round due to injury) while making significant strides along the way.
Meanwhile, Moseley emerged as the team's top corner, allowing just 31 catches on 55 targets, 11 passes defended, an interception and didn't allow a single touchdown in coverage in 13 games.
Verrett, Norman, Dontae Johnson and nickel corner K'Waun Williams are all set to become free agents at the start of the new league year on March 16. San Francisco will have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to retaining some of its veteran playmakers, or looking at talent outside of its current roster.