Nnamdi Asomugha has signed a one year deal with the 49ers, while going out of his way to accept zero guaranteed money within his new contract.
The former star cornerback has certainly come a long way from his big, five-year, $60 million, $25 million guaranteed signing with Philadelphia in 2011. His current contract not only offers no guaranteed cash, but is only worth $3 million overall, and that includes some incentives such as Pro Bowl honors.
Asomugha is an interesting case. He had his best days in Oakland playing mainly press man coverage and, upon joining the Eagles, was asked to play more zone than ever before, as well as blitz; Both are suspected reasons for his decline.
Neil Hornsby of Pro Football Focus notes that from 2008 to 2010, Asomugha led the league in targets per coverage snap by a "ridiculous margin;" meaning that he was thrown at the least of any cornerback in the league.
A true shutdown corner at the time, he performed at a dominant level while playing most his snaps in press coverage. Now that he is joining San Francisco, he'll be asked to do the same. The 49ers play man more than most teams in the league, with the corners often responsible for not just anything underneath, but compensating deep for our aggressive safeties as well. The 49ers secondary does not blitz often, either, because our elite front seven creates enough pressure on its own.
Thus, Asomugha will be asked to play the exact style that made him a big name in Oakland, but the question for me is: Can he even make the roster?
The 49ers currently employ three fine corners who do what Vic Fangio asks them to do quite well. Carlos Rogers had a positive season and is still enjoying his San Francisco revitalization; Chris Culliver is, in my opinion, a stud-in-the-making and will likely see even more improvement this coming season; and Asomugha's most direct competition at RCB, Tarell Brown, is arguably our best corner.
In 2012, Brown was rated the highest of any member of the 49er secondary by Pro Football Focus, with quarterbacks achieving a low 77.7 rating on attempts in his direction. He defended 14 passes, had three picks, and only allowed one touchdown.
Conclusion? I believe in Lord Fangio first and foremost to get the best out of every player. Carlos Rogers and safety Donte Whitner both exemplify Fangio's ability to do exactly that; and Goldson is enjoying a great payday from Tampa Bay in part because Fangio knew just how to use him.
With Asomugha joining the squad now, perhaps he could be utilized as part of our dime/nickel packages, which see a lot of usage against pass-heavy squads like Green Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans -- all of whom the 49ers face this year, and two of whom the 49ers had some trouble with this postseason.
If his return to press man coverage in Fangio's adaptive scheme means we get the Oakland Asomugha instead of the Philly one, then, at the least, Nnamdi will manage himself a roster spot and could be utilized as a situational DB.
Otherwise, I personally do not see Asomugha, nearing age 32, being a threat to our established corners.
ESPN was running a segment yesterday asking whether the acquisition of Asomugha or wideout Anquan Boldin was a "bigger move." The answer seems pretty clear to me considering Asomugha might see himself cut before the season even begins.
Time will tell what's left in his tank; but if it's a career renewal Nnamdi Asomugha is seeking, he's at least come to the right place.