49ers’ first significant roster move this offseason costs cornerback his job

SANTA CLARA — Cornerback Isaiah Oliver’s tenure with the 49ers is over after one season.

Oliver was released Thursday in the 49ers’ first significant, yet expected, departure following their Super Bowl loss, aside from defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ firing last week.

Signed in free agency last spring (two years, $6.8 million), Oliver struggled in the nickel-back role for which he was cast, so much so that he did not play a defensive snap in any of the 49ers’ three playoff games. He was slated to make $3.1 million in salary in 2024.

The 49ers scrambled to find the right combination when deploying three cornerbacks. With Oliver effectively benched at midseason in the wake of a three-game losing streak, the 49ers caught their stride with Deommodore Lenoir shifting from right cornerback to the inside slot in their nickel package. In that look, Ambry Thomas would enter at right cornerback opposite Charvarius Ward, who enjoyed a Pro Bowl season but required core muscle surgery this week. Jason Verrett was poised to debut at nickel back in his comeback attempt but a shoulder injury scuttled that plan in Week 18.

By the time the 49ers got into the playoffs and Super Bowl LVIII, veteran Logan Ryan lined up at nickel back, and his late coverage allowed Mecole Hardman to catch Patrick Mahomes’ winning touchdown pass in the 49ers’ 25-22 overtime loss.

Ryan is among the 49ers slated to hit free agency March 13.

With Ward and Lenoir entrenched as starting cornerbacks, the 49ers enter another offseason seeking a solution at nickel back, where K’Waun Williams and then Jimmie Ward performed well in that role in past years; Williams, 32, will become a free agent if the Denver Broncos do not re-sign him.

Oliver’s job security seemed tenuous throughout training camp. His lone interception with the 49ers helped propel their Week 2 win against the host Los Angeles Rams, with him picking off Matthew Stafford in the third quarter to set up a go-ahead field goal in that 30-23 win. Oliver was limited to 35 special-teams snaps in the playoffs, after playing every defensive snap in the regular-season finale as Ward and Lenoir rested.

Cornerbacks still on the 49ers’ roster: Ward, Lenoir, Thomas, Darrell Luter Jr., Sam Womack III, and Kemon Hall.

Coach Kyle Shanahan has yet to announce Wilks’ replacement as defensive coordinator.

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Author: Cam Inman