The Oakland Raiders will have three new players on their roster in 2014 who have spent time with the San Francisco 49ers. Two of them, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, will see significant playing time with the Raiders next season and the third, Kory Sheets will be competing to earn playing time. In order to get to know these guys better, I sat down with a friend of mine who runs one of the most popular Niners blogs on the interwebs, www.ninersnation.com (I know, terrible name). I would be willing to bet that he knows as much or more about the Niners as anyone in the media and was kind enough to give us some thoughts on these new Raiders.
Q: You have watched Brown for his entire career in San Francisco, what are his strengths? His weak points?
A: Brown is not a high profile shut-down corner, so if you’re looking for that Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis, whatever comparison you want to make type of guy, you aren’t going to get it. But that’s also why he signed the contract he signed. Opinions among 49ers fans were mixed, but I think he was fairly underrated. He wasn’t a big interception guy, but he was a very solid coverage guy. He had his share of blown coverage at times, but overall, I just thought he was a solid cornerback. He’ll be 30 next year, so I don’t see him getting any lengthy deals the remainder of his career, but he’s a cost effective option as the Raiders try and clean up their secondary.
Q: I was surprised he did not re-sign with the Niners, was he seen as a priority re-signing?
A: The 49ers supposedly made a 3-year offer around $10 million, but nothing has been confirmed on that. There were also reports they offered him 4 years, $16 million last year before they signed Tramaine Brock to a similar offer. None of this has been confirmed. Based on how it played out, I’m just assuming the 49ers offered something similar or lower than what the Raiders offer. And with 11 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, I’m assuming the 49ers are looking at a deep cornerback class to replenish. Brown potentially saw the writing on the wall. He lost his job at one point this past season when he got hurt, and I think he realized he could potentially lose it again in San Francisco this year. If that happened, he’d be a year older and back to prove it territory. In Oakland, I suspect he’ll be starting the whole season, so he could potentially still earn a multi-year deal.
Q: He came to Oakland on a one year deal, presumably because he is hoping to have a good enough year to get one last big contract, do you think he has much left at 29?
A: I think he has plenty left. Like I said, he’s not a shutdown guy, so a lack of interceptions should not be a huge surprise. I think we’ve seen the ceiling of his career, but I also think a) he has a fairly high floor still, and b) I don’t expect him to lose it all over night.
Q: Unless the Raiders surprise people with a big move, Brown looks like he will be their number one corner, can he handle that pressure?
A: He was more or less the 49ers No. 1 corner last year. Carlos Rogers was the bigger name, but Brown was the No. 1 guy. He’ll have his problems with big wide receivers, but he’ll be solid, and I think an improvement for the Raiders.
Q: How should Raiders fans react to this signing? While Brown was a clear upgrade over past corners, Rogers is not quite so clear.
A: Rogers is a bit more boom-or-bust than Brown. While Brown is not a big play-maker, he does not get burned nearly as frequently as Rogers. The big downside for Rogers is after one big year of picks in 2011, he seems to have returned to his hands of stone days he dealt with in Washington. I guarantee you’ll have a few head-shaking moments when a would-be interception bounces off his helmet.
Q: It looks as though the Raiders will be playing Rogers as their nickel corner, is that his best fit or is he capable of being a starter if DJ Hayden is unable to step up to the plate?
A: In San Francisco, Rogers started opposite Tarell Brown in the base defense, and then moved inside to the slot when they switched to their nickel. Pro Football Focus rated him among the best in slot coverage, so that would seem to be the best option for him. He can still do work outside when needed, but ideally he’ll stay inside this season.
Q: Three years ago, Rogers had a career year with six interceptions, was that a fluke or can he still produce at a high level?
A: When Rogers came over from Washington, he had a reputation for horrible hands. He had a monster year in 2011, but more and more that looks like a fluke. He is still a solid cornerback, but not quite the playmaker we saw in 2011.
Q: Sheets only spent one preseason with the Niners so clearly you did not see a lot, but did anything stand out in your memory?
A: He led the league in preseason rushing yards, and that led a few people to get overly excited about him. It resulted in someone creating the username KORY SHEETS WAS OUR FUTURE, and writing this all-caps masterpiece of a manifesto over at my site: http://www.ninersnation.com/2009/11/7/1121212/why-did-we-let-kory-sheets-go
I’m honestly still not sure if it was satire. I like to think it was completely serious. That is the extent of Kory Sheets’ time in San Francisco.
Q: Are you surprised to see Sheets getting another shot in the NFL after finding some success in the CFL?
A: I’m not at all surprised he’s getting another shot. Any time a relatively young player does well in the CFL, he seems to get a chance in the NFL. Given how the NFL is transitioning away from workhorse backs, if he can just contribute in a platoon, he could stick around.
Q: You’re a gambling man much like myself, what are the odds that Sheets has an impact on the field for the Raiders?
A: Odds are slim that he makes an impact outside of the preseason. I could see him making the roster, but even that is doubtful. He’d be at the very end of the roster.