Over two and a half years after the original “Nnamdi Watch” the sequel has generated much better results. The San Francisco 49ers have reportedly signed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a 1 year deal worth $1.35 million. He can supposedly more than double that total if he reaches certain incentives in the contract, however, none of the money is guaranteed. Asomugha was released by the Eagles on March 12, two seasons after signing a 5-year, $60 million contract.
Why would Asomugha sign a contract like this? Well, first and foremost, the Eagles still owe him $4 million this season so money probably wasn’t a huge issue. Also, interest in his services did not appear to be very high after he was let go. He took visits with the 49ers and the Saints shortly after his release, neither of which produced an immediate contract. Nnamdi’s fall from grace seemed to happen almost over night.
When the the lockout ended in 2011, he was the hottest free agent on the market and was looked at by some as the best corner short of Revis Island. When he signed with Eagles, it looked like another feather in the cap of a team primed to dominate the 2011 season. But like the rest of the Eagles, he was a major disappointment. There were many factors that could have contributed to his decline. He was often beaten on deep routes, looking like age had caught up with him. While his speed has declined, he was never a burner. At 6’2 and 215 pounds, he always relied on using his long arms and strength in man to man, press coverage. The scheme could have been part of the issue in Philadelphia as they played a lot of off coverage and zone. It appears Nnamdi is using this upcoming season to prove himself all over again. If he has a rejuvenation with the 49ers, he sets himself up for a bigger payday in 2014. What better spot to get your career jump started then with a loaded team that happens to have one of the best defenses in the league?
There is almost no reason to even question why the 49ers would do this deal. It’s a low-risk, high-reward signing. If the 49ers are wrong, and Asomugha looks washed up in the preseason, they can cut him without losing any money. The move is very similar to what they did last season with Randy Moss. If the 49ers are right, it could give them the big, physical corner they lacked last season. We’ve seen other defensive backs like Charles Woodson and Darren Sharper (although at safety) have a renaissance late in their careers with new teams so it’s not out of the question for the Niners to catch lightening in a bottle with Asomugha. The 49er’s corners struggled against big, strong receivers and were carved up by Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in the post season. More specifically, think of the 3rd down late in the Super Bowl when Rogers had good coverage but was still unable to out muscle Boldin for the ball. Now they can possibly have someone to give them a favorable match up in those situations. The 49er’s staff is one of the best in the league at coaching and scheming to their players strengths and you can guarantee they will put Asomugha in situations that will cater to what he does well.
Nnamdi will not be handed a job. He’ll have to complete with Culliver, Brown, Rogers, Cox and Brock. The 49ers carried 5 cornerbacks last season, so 6 is a possibility . It’s likely they will need to free up more money towards the cap at some point, but other than Cox, the rest of this stable is likely to stay. Rogers makes sense to cut performance wise but his dead money hit would be significant toward the cap. This is a great move for both parties but more so for San Francisco as the Baalke regime continues to make smart, cost efficient moves in getting veterans on short term deals to support their core franchise players.