Carlos Rogers' contract with the San Francisco 49ers ranks among the NFC West's top three for cornerbacks in guaranteed money ($10.65 million), 2013 base salary ($5.5 million) and average per year ($7.325 million).
Where does Rogers rank as a corner?
"I'm lukewarm on him," Matt Williamson, ESPN's NFL scout, said. "He would start for just about every team, but if he is a $7 million guy, maybe I'd rather use a second-round pick on a corner and use that money on someone else."
The 49ers did not take that route in the 2013 draft, and when it ended, reporters asked general manager Trent Baalke whether he felt Rogers could match up against some of the new wide receivers in the NFC West, notably Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin. Last season, Rogers had his hands full against the St. Louis Rams' Danny Amendola, leading former NFL coach Rick Venturi to say Amendola turned Rogers "every way but loose" in Week 10.
The 49ers, by their actions in the draft and free agency, do not appear particularly concerned.
"You always talk about matchups -- are we manning up these guys, or are we playing zone and covering them in an umbrella type of situation?" Baalke told reporters when pressed about the team's options at slot corner specifically. "So, I think we've got to look at it a lot of different ways. And you take care of certain things with scheme more than just one-on-one matchups."
Cian Fahey of Pre-snap Reads, who previously took game-by-game looks at NFC West cornerbacks Richard Sherman (here) and Patrick Peterson (here), dove into Rogers' 2012 performance this week. He saw what Venturi saw against Amendola, who is now safely outside the NFC West after signing with New England. Fahey also noted Rogers' struggles against slot receivers Early Doucet, Randall Cobb, Doug Baldwin and Austin Pettis.
But there are reasons the 49ers decided to guarantee $1.25 million of Rogers' upcoming salary by keeping him on the roster past April 1.
"Tackling is a vital part of Rogers' game," Fahey wrote. "While he doesn't have the superior coverage ability of his peers, he is a good fit with the 49ers because he doesn't allow big plays after the catch and he's not a liability in run defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Rogers made 59 tackles last season and missed just three. That ratio for a player who primarily played the slot cornerback role in the NFC West is incredible."
I circled back with Williamson for some final thoughts:
"Rogers is a tough evaluation. He came in as a first-round pick. He is a first-round caliber tools guy: not small, long arms, pretty fluid, moves well. But he more or less never lived up to that in Washington. His first year with the Niners (2011) was his best as a pro, and not just for the six interceptions. I would bet he will never reach those six picks again. I felt like that first year in San Francisco on a very good defense with a good pass-rush, he was good. Last year, I thought he was an average NFL starting corner. I don't know the guy or know his motivation, but I wondered if he coasted a little bit. He can play the slot, and he benefits from a strong supporting cast. He will not be a top corner who you put on the opponent's best receiver every week. He is a good fit, but it wouldn't shock me if you're looking to replace him, too."