The 49ers signed former Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox to a two year contract Tuesday, marking the second “character issue” free agent signing for San Francisco in less than 24 hours. In the wake of agreeing to terms on a 1 year, $2.5M contract with Randy Moss, the 49ers have now signed a player who took 2011 year off from football and was recently acquitted of sexual assault charges.
Cox is not only a cornerback with some high upside, but he is also a return specialist. He fell to the fifth round of the 2010 draft before being chosen by the Denver Broncos. It’s been said that his slow 40 speed (4.58) was the main reason for his stock plummet in the draft. But he played well for the Broncos, and he should provide some pop and explosiveness to the 49ers' secondary - if he plays at a high level.
The character issues started in college. In 2009, he was arrested for driving on a suspended license. He was suspended from the Cotton Bowl by Oklahoma St. head coach Mike Gundy for violating curfew in his senior year. In December of 2010, Cox was arrested for felony sexual assault charges. He was acquitted of those charges on March 2nd.
Signings with baggage
So there you have it. Since the final whistle sounded on the 49ers 2011 season, they have signed 3 different players with checkered pasts. Randy Moss is obviously not a Sunday school graduate, Cox has his history of mischievousness, and let’s not forget about Ahmad Brooks, who came from the Cincinnati Bengals a few years ago with a number of red flags.
Signing guys with character issues is not a new trend for the 49ers. Brooks was a signing that made many 49ers fans cringe, but he is now anchored to this team for another 5 years. His character issues were resolved, and he has become an important member of one of the league’s best defenses.
Anthony Davis was a guy that the 49ers drafted despite warnings about his character. Davis had lots of upside, but was said to be young and immature. Despite the fact that Davis has no filter on Twitter, he keeps his cool on and off the field, and the youngster seems to be growing into form.
Then there’s Braylon Edwards, who the 49ers brought in despite character issues. He acted out in the locker room and to the media, which explains why he got cut, but he didn’t get in any legal trouble during his tenure in San Francisco. The 49ers are hoping for more from both Randy Moss and Perrish Cox than what they got from Edwards. But Harbaugh and Baalke both seem confident that their behavioral issues will not reappear while they play for the 49ers.
What does this mean for Rogers and Ginn?
The general belief is that this means both Carlos Rogers and Ted Ginn Jr. will be gone, and that may be true. I am pretty certain that Ginn will be playing for another team next year – the 49ers have already replaced Ginn's deep threat ability offense with Moss; now Cox can provide what Ginn brought to the return game.
I am hesitant to think that the 49ers are done talking to Rogers, however. Remember when the 49ers signed Madieu Williams last year and everyone said goodbye to Dashon Goldson? Goldson was looking for a big contract out in the free agent market but he came up empty. Goldson came crawling back to the 49ers, and he ended up having a career year.
The market will probably be considerably better for Rogers than it was for Goldson, but I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him coming back. It’s important to keep in mind that Rogers had one good year, so if a top 5 corner contract is what he’s looking for, the thrifty 49ers front office may not be willing to dish it. If Rogers doesn't like what he sees, and is willing to settle for a more modest contract, the 49ers might be the team to give it to him.