With the recent news that the Kansas City Chiefs have released Brandon Flowers, it got us wondering whether the San Francisco 49ers should pursue him or not. Given that corner was probably their biggest weakness on defense last year, it would seem that answer would be yes. Tramaine Brock seems to think San Francisco is fine at the defensive back position.
— Tramaine Brock (@T26Brock) June 11, 2014
But is it?
The 49ers dealt with the issue some this offseason with the addition of Chris Cook through free agency. Cook, who has been seeing time at first-string opposite of Tramaine Brock, has impressed Jim Harbaugh, enough that coach has said “He’s showing up and making plays. He’s getting his hands on the ball, he’s made interceptions and he’s done a good job.”
The guy Cook is replacing, Chris Culliver, is supposed to be the other starter along with Brock though he is still rehabbing from last season’s knee injury.
While Culliver and Brock are great starters, there is still a hole at the nickel position, but that’s the hole the San Francisco 49ers hope Jimmie Ward can fill. Unfortunately Ward is also battling injuries, so in the meantime Cook is doing everything he can to show he deserves to be on the team.
Some of the guys he will is battling for room on the roster are this season’s draft picks. Besides Ward, the 49ers snagged Dontae Johnson (4th round pick) and Kennetch Acker (6th round pick) to help bolster their defensive backfield.
Also, don’t forget about Perish Cox, who did well in the slot during the playoffs, even though he only signed with the team right before those playoffs stared. He too figures to be in the battle for the slot, not to mention Eric Wright and Daryl Morris who were carry-overs from last season’s squad as well.
With a laundry list of guys looking for playing time, where does Brandon Flowers even fit in?
Matt Maiocco wrote that “among the 79 cornerbacks around the NFL who had at least 50 percent of play time, Flowers ranked 67th.” These are according to Pro Football Focus. Compare that to Brock who ranked 14th.
At first glance last season’s rankings seem pretty bad, and general consensus is that last season was his worst even though he had make his first Pro Bowl. But those issues may be from the fact that he did not really fit into the defensive scheme. As such, when thrust into the nickel position, he struggled.
In fact, he played there about 50% of the time. And, according to Maiocco, “Brandon Flowers surrendered a passer rating of 96.3 on those plays with 33 completions on 48 attempts for 345 yards and a touchdown.”
Simply put, Flowers should not be used in the slot. If the San Francisco 49ers want him to play him there, it’s a mistake. But, if they think of him as an outside guy, maybe it makes sense. The problem is price would still have to be right since the 49ers only have $5.7 million in cap space remaining for the season.
He would still be worth a look though, as his numbers up until last season were downright impressive. Again, we are relying on somewhat subjective metrics, but the point remains that he has been consistently good over the course of his career.
Brandon Flowers posted a -9.8 @PFF coverage grade in 2013, but had a Top 10 CB coverage grade each of the previous 4 seasons.
— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) June 13, 2014
At the end of the day, the San Francisco 49ers have to think he is at least worth the look, and perhaps he takes a pay-cut to sign with a contending team. If the 49ers somehow did land Brandon Flowers, it could end up turning their secondary into a strength rather than it remaining a weakness.