The San Francisco 49ers found themselves another low-risk, high-reward free agent this Spring in cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed a one-year, $1.35 million deal on Tuesday. If the four-time All-Pro can’t crack the Niners 53-man roster out of training camp, San Fran will still have three more than capable corners heading into the 2013 NFL season. If he comes in and makes an impact the way he intends to, however, either Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown or Chris Culliver will wind up spending more time on the bench than they’re accustomed to.
The question is, though, which one will it be?
With the help of his 6’2″, 210-pound frame, Asomugha excels in man-to-man coverage and can provide the 49ers with size they’ve long been without at the cornerback position. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio employs man coverage in his defensive schemes more often than not, so this alone makes the 32-year-old veteran a potentially valuable asset, even if his cover skills aren’t what they once were.
The Niners also rarely use more than three corners in any given game. Perrish Cox was the team’s No. 4 CB in 2012, and he saw just 189 defensive snaps on the year (per Pro Football Focus), 55 of which came in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers and their pass-heavy offensive attack.
Playoffs included, Rogers (1,255) and Brown (1,249) each played right around 1,250 snaps a season ago, with the undersized Brown arguably serving as the team’s top player at the position. Culliver played 820 snaps and showed promise at times as well, though he did disappoint during the postseason. It’s tough to say who the odd man out would be if Asomugha proves himself worthy of playing time, and there is even the possibility that a rotation could be used.
Rogers and Culliver stand at just 6’0″, and Brown is only 5’10”. A lack of length in the secondary hurt the 49ers in 2012, and it’s clear Trent Baalke and Co. have plans to fix that. As of now, it could be anybody’s guess who will miss out on the action if Asomugha works his way onto the field in Red and Gold. San Fran still may decide to take one of the many talented corners available in this year’s draft just to cloud the picture even further.
Either way, Asomugha is determined to get back to making a positive impact on the gridiron, and if he does, the Niners will be a better team for it. Really, that’s all that matters, but it’ll be interesting to watch the competition in camp and see how this all unfolds.