Secondary shuffle highlights 49ers depth-chart changes

Secondary shuffle highlights 49ers depth-chart changes
March 15, 2014, 9:15 am
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Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner won't be around next season. (USATSI)

Programming note: NFL free agency is well underway! Check out Matt Maiocco's 49ers free agent tracker and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the latest football news.

In the first four days of the new league year, the 49ers no longer have three-quarters of their primary starting defensive backfield of the past three seasons.

The 49ers also have a new backup quarterback and, potentially, a new backup offensive tackle. And the 49ers presumably made the decision last month to hand the ball to a new starting center.

Here’s a look at how the 49ers of today are different than the 49ers of last season:

Strong safety
The 49ers got a year older with the addition of former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea, who turns 30 in July. But the 49ers got Bethea for a lot less than the Cleveland Browns paid to lure away Donte Whitner. Bethea signed a four-year, $21 million contract with $6.25 million guaranteed. Whitner signed a four-year, $28 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Bethea is a solid safety who brings strong leadership skills to a secondary that lost a lot in that area this offseason.

Cornerback
The 49ers cut ties with Carlos Rogers at an eventual cap savings of $6.6 million, and the 49ers offered Tarell Brown a three-year, $10 million contract that he rejected. Brown signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday. Chris Culliver has impressed the coaches during his rehab from ACL surgery to convince the team he can handle one starting job. Tramaine Brock, who took over as a starter after Brown’s ribs injury, is expected to be on the other side.

Chris Cook (6 foot 2) signed a one-year deal after experiencing problems on and off the field in his four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. “It’s a new start for me, a fresh slate,” Cook said Friday. “I feel rejuvenated now that I’ve actually signed to be a part of the 49ers organization. I look forward to coming out here, revamping my career and starting from scratch.”

[RELATED: Cook signs one-year deal]

Cook and Eric Wright figure to battle for a roster spot in training camp. The 49ers are still in the market for a veteran to play the nickel role that Rogers held the past three seasons. Seahawks free agent Walter Thurmond visited Friday, but he is expected to take other visits. The 49ers also figure to use a draft pick to add to the competition.

Center
The 49ers signed Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract extension on Feb. 27 to take over for veteran Jonathan Goodwin. The 49ers have not made an effort to re-sign Goodwin, 35.

Backup quarterback
The 49ers acquired Blaine Gabbert from the Jacksonville Jaguars for a sixth-round draft pick to serve as Colin Kaepernick’s backup. Colt McCoy held that role last season. Gabbert’s spot on the team is assured due to his fully guaranteed $2.01 million salary, which is nearly double what Kaepernick is scheduled to make this season.

[RELATED: Gabbert seeks fresh start]

Backup tackle
The 49ers acquired another player in need of a fresh start, Jonathan Martin, who was at the alleged target of the bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins last season. The former Stanford star has experience at both tackle positions. In the past, the 49ers slid starting right guard Alex Boone to tackle when someone was needed to step in for starters Joe Staley or Anthony Davis. Martin is expected to get his versatility tested with some work at guard, too. Veteran backup Adam Snyder has experience at all five spots on the line.