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49ers sign starting-caliber nickel corner from Falcons [report]



© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers lost their longest-tenured player in Jimmie Ward earlier this week to DeMeco Ryans’ Houston Texans.

Had the 49ers not re-signed Tashaun Gipson Sr. and found a cheap safety pairing with him and Talanoa Hufanga, Ward’s departure may have been more devastating. As it is, it still left a sizable hole at nickel corner.

On Wednesday, San Francisco appeared to fill that need.

Per The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, it’s a two-year deal:

While the contract details have yet to be released, it’s perhaps a more affordable deal than in normal circumstances due to Oliver’s injury history.

On October 5, 2021, Oliver tore his ACL, signing a one-year extension with the Falcons in he offseason. He began the 2022 season on injured reserve and was activated on October 15, making his season debut against the 49ers after missing five games and securing his lone interception of the season.

Over 12 games last season, Oliver was the 12th-highest rated corner by Pro Football Focus. Out of 199 corners, his coverage was rated 37th and his tackling 11th. He ranked 19th out of 139 corners in pass rushing.

PFF is far from a perfect metric of performance, but it’s one of the few available to assess corners, whose performance is generally hard to assess without All-22 film.

After being drafted in the second round out of Colorado and starting as an outside corner, Oliver made a significant transition to playing in the slot in 2020. He was off to a solid start in 2021 before tearing his ACL. In 2022, 262 of his 349 snaps (75 percent) came in the slot.

At 26 years old, there’s a lot to like for a player who is coming off his first nearly full season playing nickel.