The San Francisco 49ers are happy to have one side of the defense locked down with cornerback Richard Sherman. The veteran finished his first season with the 49ers, and general manager John Lynch expressed on Monday how happy he is with Sherman's presence on and off the field.

Sherman started all but two games this season, including the last nine, after a lengthy rehab following the Achilles injury he suffered last year. He also dealt with a calf injury for much of the season.

"I had a good visit, as did [head coach Kyle Shanahan], today with Sherm," Lynch told reporters. "I've just got a lot of respect for the way he handled himself. First and foremost, he's working through a very tough (injury), getting his body right. The way he battled through that, we knew early on it wasn't perfect.

"The thing that has me excited, I think he hit a point, it was just about (the) bye week. He came out of that, and I think you could see it. He felt better. He was in a little better mood because pain is not a comfortable thing and I think the pain kind of just went away. I think it showed and reflected in his play.

"But, we couldn't have been more happy with the way he was in terms of using his experience, his championship pedigree to bring up those around him, not only in his room but throughout the team. You can see what has made him a special player over the years."

Sherman expects to return even better next season since he won't have to limit himself during the upcoming offseason, as he was forced to do in 2018.

"I've gotten better," Sherman said last week. "My body has finally gotten into football shape, and I can move like I want to move. My muscles are accustomed to the grind of the season. That's the thing. Your muscles are tired all the time. I'm still tired from rehab throughout the season."

The 49ers expect to see some competition this offseason for the right to play across from Sherman. Second-year cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon started the majority of the games at that spot this season but a sprained posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) during Week 15 opened an opportunity for rookie Tarvarius Moore, who started each of the final two games.

"We're extremely excited about Tarvarius," Lynch continued. "He got an opportunity to go play, and I think he showed some really good things. But I think that's going to be great competition between he and Ahkello."

That doesn't necessarily mean either player will win that starting cornerback spot. Lynch expects the 49ers to continue to try to improve at every position and could bring in even more competition for the young players.

"Like I said, we're still in the early stages, but we've been studying the free agents available," Lynch added. "We've obviously been studying the draft, and that's a spot (cornerback) I think you just keep adding at. You have to be strong there."