GLENDALE AZ - NOVEMBER 29: Cornerback Nate Clements #22 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after stopping a pass to Early Doucet #80 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 29 2010 in Glendale Arizona. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-6. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Since there can't be any transactions while the lockout is in effect, we haven't seen any of the usual contract renegotiations that have become a staple of the salary cap era in the NFL. The 49ers have one prominent player who will be re-doing his deal or face getting cut by the squad: cornerback Nate Clements. Both sides have commented on the situation to some extent, but the lockout has prevented a whole lot of specifics.
Two weeks ago, 49ers GM Trent Baalke was asked about whether Nate Clements would be back in 2011. Baalke responded:
"I don't know. You'd have to ask Nate. Honestly, I can't tell you right now."
Translation: Before the lockout started we told Nate he would need to restructure his contract if he wanted to stick with the 49ers in 2011. If he did not want to restructure, he would be cut. We did not get an answer before the lockout began and now that the lockout is on I can't really comment on possible transactions.
Nate Clements has since commented on the topic (thanks to Andrew9erfan for the FanShot). He was asked if he wants to return to the 49ers in 2011:
"Absolutely," Clements said. "I never said I didn't. That's not really an issue."
Translation: I'd love to stick with the 49ers in 2011 because I've got a PHAT contract and would love to keep said contract. The real issue is how to get a decent deal for myself since the 49ers would not seem likely to bring me back with this deal.
The Clements situation will depend almost entirely on the lockout moving forward. If the players and owners work out a deal before mid-August, then the game of contract chicken will reach a fevered pitch. If the lockout drags into late August or beyond, things get really interesting with his contract. If the lockout drags into late August or early September, it's possible that free agency will be put off for the season and players will revert to their current team.
For the 49ers, Clements would not be a free agent based on his current contract. The 49ers are looking to renegotiate his deal or simply cut him at which point he would then be a free agent. However, if they had plans of bringing in a big name free agent cornerback and cutting loose Clements if he didn't agree to a new deal, that option might be off the table with a protracted lockout. The question marks continue....