2005 free agency: Cornerbacks

The 49ers are making no secret of their desire to upgrade at cornerback, and the quickest way to do that could be in free agency. And, lo and behold, the team has inside ties to Ken Lucas and Gary Baxter, two of the top corners who'll be available on the open market. The 49ers could take a stab at one of those players, though it might be more cost-effective to pursue one of the second-level FAs available, depending on what the team has planned for the top cornerbacks already on its roster.

New 49ers vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan drafted Lucas when both were with Seattle in 2001. McCloughan is well aware of Lucas' talents, and the association between the two might help the 49ers, though Lucas is likely to receive several quality offers elsewhere. If the Niners target this player, they will have to do it early, and he would have to be one of their top expenditures in free agency.

The same holds true for Baxter, a physical cornerback who played for 49ers coach Mike Nolan in recent seasons on Baltimore's rugged defense. Nolan and Baxter both hold high praise for each other, and it's believed Baxter is interested in following Nolan to San Francisco and being a fixture in the 49ers' revamped defense, as he was with the Ravens, even though 2004 wasn't one of his better seasons.

The sticking point here, too, is that Baxter is likely to command top dollar on the open market. The Niners must consider how much money they want to invest in one player in free agency, and it likely will take a lot to grab one of the top players here - a player such as Lucas, Baxter or Fred Smoot.

But either of those three would fill a perceived hole with the Niners, allowing them to focus on other positions in the draft. San Francisco already has three cornerbacks of starting quality in Mike Rumph, Ahmed Plummer and Shawntae Spencer, but the team is uncertain about Plummer's health and is considering moving Rumph to free safety.

The Niners very well could end up with Rumph, Plummer and Spencer as their top three corners in 2005, but the team - as of today - is looking at other alternatives to improve the team at the position.

That could leave the Niners considering a veteran FA such as Willie Williams or Anthony Henry who might slide to them at the right price.

The 49ers also have a decision to make about their own unrestricted free agent, Jimmy Williams, but if they're really serious about upgrading the position, they probably won't make him an offer.

The Niners also have several youngsters who will be exclusive rights free agents, but they don't figure into the equation here, because they would be competing strictly for a roster berth and not the serious playing time that will be afforded to the team's top four players at this crucial position.

Here's a look at the cornerbacks scheduled to hit the open market next week:

2005 Free-Agent Cornerbacks
A listing of the cornerbacks scheduled for NFL free agency in 2005. UFA=Unrestricted Free Agent; RFA=Restricted Free Agent; ERFA=Exclusive Rights Free Agent. For definitions of free-agent terms, click here. The "Best of the Bunch" is ranked by Scout.com's Lane Adkins. The "Rest of the Bunch" is sorted by free-agent type, then by most recent team. Comments provided for unrestricted free agents.
BEST OF THE BUNCH
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Andre Dyson UFA Titans
While Dyson is not a great cornerback he does have the skills to be one. A new home might benefit him.
Ken Lucas UFA Seahawks
Ken Lucas continues to fly under the radar screen, much like he has done over his entire career in Seattle. Lucas offers great size and speed and someone will sign him early.
Fred Smoot RFA Redskins
Smoot is certainly a player on the rise in the eyes of most league observers. In the past he has rebuffed overtures from the Redskins for a contract extension and looks poised to cash in big as a free agent.
Anthony Henry UFA Browns
The Browns like Henry but remained puzzled by him. He will likely sign elsewhere.
Gary Baxter UFA Ravens
Word is that the Ravens are planning on using their franchise tag on Baxter despite him coming off of a sub-par season in 2004. Baxter is a big phyical cornerback who if he is not tagged will get plenty of action early.
Aaron Beasley UFA Falcons
Though Beasley is getting long in the tooth, he provides a veteran cornerback with years of experience as a starter for a team that needs a veteran in the mix.
Renaldo Hill UFA Cardinals
In 2003 Renaldo Hill was the talk of the Cardinals and looked poised to strike it big. He apparantly is not in coach Dennis Green's long term plans, though, and he looks like he will play elsewhere in 2005.
Nick Harper UFA Colts
Harper is one of the Colts' best cornerbacks but he is also protected by the Colts cover-two scheme. Indianapolis wants him back but knows not to overpay to get him.
Jason Craft UFA Saints
Craft has been a disappointment in New Orleans.
Willie Williams UFA Steelers
The Steelers would probably like to keep Williams, but they will not overpay for him.
Kenny Wright UFA Texans
Wright will likely stay in Houston.
Kevin Mathis UFA Falcons
Offers depth and special teams play.
Lewis Sanders UFA Browns
Sanders offers prototype size and skills but has not lived up to expectations.
Deion Sanders UFA Ravens
The Ravens probably want to keep Sanders.
Robert Tate UFA Cardinals
Tate could re-sign in Arizona as a backup.
Tyrone Williams UFA Cowboys
Williams is on his last legs, but might find a team willing to take a chance on him.
Jimmy Williams RFA 49ers
Brian Williams RFA Vikings
Danion Sidney UFA Lions
Sidney can also play safety.
 
REST OF THE BUNCH
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Todd McMillon UFA Bears
McMillon will be an afterthought in free agency.
Jimmy Spencer UFA Broncos
Spencer might move to the coaching ranks full-time now.
Corey Ivy UFA Buccaneers
Ivy could get on as deep backup defensive back somewhere.
Michael Stone UFA Cardinals
Stone can play safety as well.
Jimmy Wyrick UFA Dolphins
Wyrick might generate some surprising interest.
Allen Rossum UFA Falcons
Rossum will be a hot commodity moreso because of his special teams skills than his coverage skills.
Kiwaukee Thomas UFA Jaguars
Thomas never developed for the Jaguars.
Terrell Buckley UFA Jets
Buckley could fit in as a veteran dimeback with a team looking to make a playoff run.
Jason Horton UFA Packers
Horton will try and move on to greener pastures.
Dale Carter UFA Ravens
Carter might have to retire.
Raymond Walls UFA Ravens
Walls will be a competant backup.
Pat Dennis UFA Redskins
Dennis has good size and little else.
Jason Bell UFA Texans
Bell is a depth player.
Jason Simmons UFA Texans
Simmons will re-sign if he can.
Derek Ross UFA Vikings
Ross is talented but his reputation may keep teams away.
Rashad Bauman RFA Bengals
Reggie Myles RFA Bengals
Kevin Thomas RFA Bills
Lenny Walls RFA Broncos
Donald Strickland RFA Colts
Joseph Jefferson RFA Colts
Pete Hunter RFA Cowboys
Andre Goodman RFA Lions
Chris Cash RFA Lions
Earthwind Moreland RFA Patriots
Keyou Craver RFA Saints
Kris Richard RFA Seahawks
Richard Kris RFA Seahawks
Demarcus Faggins RFA Texans
Rhett Nelson RFA Vikings
Christian Morton ERFA Browns
Ronyell Whitaker ERFA Buccaneers
Lance Frazier ERFA Cowboys
Lenny Williams ERFA Cowboys
Roderick Hood ERFA Eagles
Frank Walker ERFA Giants
Dwight Anderson ERFA Rams
Calvin Carlyle ERFA Ravens
Zach Norton ERFA Ravens
Vontez Duff ERFA Steelers

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