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Walter Thurmond would be valuable to the 49ers as a cornerback capable of playing the slot, but may be out of San Francisco's price range. (AP)
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Tarell Brown remains unsigned. And Carlos Rogers’ contract places his return to the 49ers as anything but a sure thing, too.
The 49ers figure to begin free agency with some holes at the cornerback position, but there are a lot of options on the open market, including two Seattle Seahawks.
The best fit for the 49ers off the Super Bowl champs is Walter Thurmond, 26, who has the added bonus of being able to play the slot. However, Thurmond might attract a lot of attention and a hefty salary on the open market.
Brandon Browner is eligible to sign with any team on Tuesday after announcing Tuesday he has been reinstated in a settlement with the NFL. The league suspended Browner in December for violating its substance-abuse policy and announced he'd be eligible to apply for reinstatement in one year.
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It is not known whether Browner must sit out any additional games to open the 2014 season. At 6 foot 4, Browner is a unique cornerback who plays a physical style in press coverage. It is unlikely he will command big bucks. He could end up being a good bargain signing.
And that could fit the 49ers’ approach this offseason. The 49ers’ plan does not figure to be much different than it was in 2011, when Rogers did not get the multi-year deal for which he hoped. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with the 49ers. Rogers ended up playing well and signed a new multi-year contract after that season. But his scheduled $6.6 million pay for this season makes his return uncertain.
With a talented group of cornerbacks ready to hit the open market, including Brown, there should be some bargains after the initial wave of signings. The 49ers signed Tramaine Brock to a four-year, $14 million extension in November. The 49ers appear open to providing Brown with a similar deal.
After awarding Brown $300,000 as a gesture of good faith late in the season as a partial makeup for the $2 million escalator he unknowingly forfeited with his failure to take part in the 49ers’ offseason program, it’s believed the 49ers would like to bring him back at the right price.
The 49ers do not have to overspend in free agency because they should have plenty of opportunities to add a younger, lower-priced option through the draft. The 49ers are scheduled to own 12 draft picks, including five of the top 94 selections.
The Miami Dolphins got things going this week, re-signing Brent Grimes to a four-year, $32 million extension with $16 million in guarantees. Here’s a look at Rotoworld’s list of the top-10 available cornerbacks in free agency:
1. Aqib Talib (New England)
2. Alterraun Verner (Tennessee)
3. Vonte Davis (Indianapolis)
4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver)
5. Sam Shields (Green Bay)
6. Walter Thurmond (Seattle)
7. Charles Tillman (Chicago)
8. Tarell Brown (49ers)
9. Captain Munnerlyn (Carolina)
10. Brandon Browner (Seattle)