The 49ers were busy Thursday, the secondary day of the new NFL year.
They introduced their biggest offseason additions to date, pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander, before signing previously coveted draft picks who didn’t work out at their former stops.
The team signed cornerback Jason Verrett, a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2014, and added receiver Jordan Matthews, a second-round selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. Each will look to earn a prominent role with San Francisco.
Verrett doesn’t have the size typically associated with 49ers cornerbacks. He measured 5-foot-9 and 189 pounds at the 2014 combine before being drafted 25th overall. But he said he plans on being used outside, where he’ll compete with the club’s taller, long-armed players such as Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore.
“It’s going to be competition everywhere you go. If you don’t like to compete, you don’t need to be in the league,” Verrett said. I’m a competitor, and I’m willing to compete with anybody.
“I know I’m definitely a top corner in this league when I’m healthy. I just got to prove it. The 49ers are giving me an opportunity to do that, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Proving has been the hard part for the Fairfield native. He has played in five games over the past three seasons and missed all of 2018 because of a torn Achilles’ suffered during a conditioning test. His rookie season was limited to six games due to a shoulder injury. He partially tore his ACL in 2016, aggravated the injury after four games and aggravated the injury the next year before landing on injured reserve.
“It’s been tough, man. Smile now, cry later-type of things,” he said. “There were a lot of dark moments with a lot of the injuries. But I came out the tunnel, and I’m ready to just get things going.”
His best season came in 2015, when he was named to the Pro Bowl after appearing in 14 games, making three interceptions and breaking up 12 passes. The scheme he played with the Chargers is similar to the one run by San Francisco. Gus Bradley, L.A.’s coordinator, is a mentor to 49ers coordinator Robert Saleh. Both were on the Seahawks’ staff in 2011 and 2012.
Matthews, 26, will presumably compete to replace veteran Pierre Garçon, whom the 49ers declined to bring back after missing half his games due to injuries since joining the team in 2017. Matthews hopes getting inserted into coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense can resurrect a once-promising career. He averaged 75 catches, 891 yards and more than six receiving touchdowns in his first three seasons (all of which would have led San Francisco in 2018).
But Matthews has bounced around the league since. He spent one season in Buffalo, finishing with 25 catches for 282 yards. He rejoined the Eagles in 2018 after a hamstring injury led to his release from the New England Patriots early last August.
“In my mind, this was the place I want to be at,” Matthews said. “I grew up a 49ers fan. My wife knew I had a huge interest in wanting to be in a place like this. It’s got everything that you’d want as far as just the culture of the team already. Young, vibrant, a great quarterback in Jimmy (Garoppolo). As a receiver, you couldn’t ask for a better situation to come in to play at.”