With the recent signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, the San Francisco 49ers are left with four starting-caliber cornerbacks on the roster. Seeing as how the 49ers defense used primarily a nickel package in 2012, there’s no problem for the top three on the depth chart. But who’s the odd man out?
Well, instead of demoting a starter to the dime cornerback, the 49ers could opt to move Chris Culliver to free safety, taking the place of free agent departure DaShon Goldson.
Throughout his college career at South Carolina, Culliver started 24 games at safety for the Gamecocks. He has noteworthy experience at the position and a switch to safety would mean that the 49ers could get all four of their talented cornerbacks on the field at the same time. Even if he rotated with recently-acquired Craig Dahl, Culliver would get more snaps at free safety than as a dime cornerback.
While Culliver has been a pleasant surprise since the 49ers selected him in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, it hasn’t been an easy road for the young cornerback. Throughout the 2012 season, teams picked on him seeing as he was the weakest of the 49ers’ three cornerbacks (Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers were the other two). Especially during the postseason, teams went at him early and often in the passing game.
If Culliver moved to free safety, he’d be in a better position to take advantage of his talents. A natural ballhawk, Culliver has the instincts to create turnovers and make plays on the football. From the free safety spot, he’d be able to sit back and make plays down the field instead of being forced to run with and blanket wide receivers.
Seeing as the 49ers likely don’t plan on playing in the dime all season long, moving Culliver to free safety makes sense. He’s the type of talent that deserves to be on the field, and his skill set makes him a viable option on the backend of the defense.
For now, though, it’s a waiting game. For all we know, one of the four could be released or traded before the season even begins.