San Francisco 49ers’ Smart Play: Securing Isaac Yiadom for Slot Coverage


Despite the success of starters Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir, the San Francisco 49ers had a definite need at cornerback entering the offseason.

San Francisco’s concern was with the slot, which had been a problem for much of 2023 when the addition of Isaiah Oliver to man the starting nickel job proved to be a mistake. With Oliver essentially benched for the bye week, Lenoir kicked inside to play the slot on nickel downs, while Ambry Thomas took his place at the outside corner.

However, Thomas’ failures in the 49ers’ postseason campaign resulted in his benching for Logan Ryan in Super Bowl 58, and with Oliver released last month, finding a nickel answer was high on San Francisco’s offseason to-do list.

The Niners visited with multiple nickel corners from this year’s draft class at the Combine and may yet address the position at next month’s annual selection meeting. However, they may have already discovered a viable solution after making an undervalued play in the open market on Friday.

San Francisco has signed cornerback Isaac Yiadom to a one-year contract, according to his agents, Vayner Sports.

It is not a game-changing signing for the NFL, but it may be extremely beneficial to the Niners.

Yiadom, a third-round choice by the Denver Broncos in 2018, is coming off the best season of his career, with an outstanding campaign in his second year with the New Orleans Saints.

He had 14 pass breakups for the Saints in 2023 and, according to Sports Info Solutions, allowed a completion rate of 38.5%, which was tied for fourth-best among cornerbacks with at least 25 targets. Yiadom ranked ninth in yards per attempt allowed (5.1) and 13th in positive play rate allowed (35.9%).

Yiadom demonstrated such amazing level of play while playing nearly exclusively in the outer corner.

There’s no assurance that his performance with the Saints will translate to his time with the 49ers. However, his incredibly outstanding performances in his sixth season in the NFL should give the Niners faith Yiadom may be the man to serve as the starting outside corner on nickel downs in 2024, allowing Lenoir to continue rotating as he did last year.

Yiadom’s arrival does not preclude the 49ers from selecting one of the slot corners on whom they conducted research throughout the draft process. Instead, they may now have the best of all worlds by potentially feeling confident in their top three corners while also grooming a rookie to start in the slot in the long run.

At this point, calling Yiadom’s signing a cure-all would be an exaggeration. However, with one move that may go unnoticed by many, the 49ers are suddenly in a much stronger position at cornerback and may have a short-term solution in the slot.

When the 49ers reflect on their free agency business at the end of next season, the signing of Yiadom may prove to be their most astute.

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