How Asomugha changes 49ers' draft plans

To continue our free pre-draft preview series, we will continue to look at the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers boasted the third-best scoring defense in the NFL last year, but suffered from a lack of depth as the season wore on. The team signed veteran corner Nnamdi Asomugha to add to an already crowded secondary. Inside is a look on how his signing could change the team's draft plans.

Nnamdi Asomugha, unrestricted free agent, signed with San Francisco

The News

The 49ers signed the 10-year veteran to a low-risk, one-year $1.775 million deal that reportedly could add up to $3 million with various incentive bonuses. The Cal Alum and former Oakland Raider returns to the Bay Area where he was formerly one of the NFL's best corners. Asomugha joins a relatively crowded unit that includes Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock, and Perrish Cox. After being drafted 31st-overall in 2003, Asomugha made three-straight Pro Bowls from 2008-2010 and earned two All-Pro selections with Oakland. None of his money is guaranteed for 2013.

The Analysis

The acquisition of Asomugha means there will be no shortage of competition at corner heading to the season. He joins the team with the motivation of bouncing back from his highly publicized struggles in Philadelphia after signing a massive five-year, $60 million contract with $25 million in guaranteed monies. He lasted just two seasons with the Eagles and comes to the 49ers having little to loose and much to prove.

Much was made of the Eagles defensive scheme under former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo – a former offensive line coach who implemented the "Wide-Nine" scheme that proved unsuccessful. Philadelphia started the season 4-8, making Castillo and the high-priced Asomugha targets of the team's failures.

Asomugha became one of the league's top corners by being utilized mostly in press man-to-man schemes with the Raiders, where he led the league in targets per coverage snap by wide margin. But with the Eagles, he was frequently used in zone schemes and struggled to adjust after his eight years with the Raiders.

That leaves the question San Francisco must answer: were his struggles in Philadelphia a product of new responsibilities in a foreign scheme or a declining skill set?

The answer is likely both.

At 31-years-old (he turns 32 in early-July), Asomugha is clearly on the downside of his physical prime at a position that demands speed and quickness. If he makes the team out of training camp, the 49ers' coaching staff will look to optimize Asomugha by putting him in positions to utilize his size, length and sound man-to-man techniques. It will also be important not to leave him on an island where he may be at a physical disadvantage against quicker receivers.

It should also be noted that Asomugha is an unlikely contributor on special teams, which could be the difference in him making the team and getting cut.

Going Forward

Asomugha represents a very similar line of thinking to the acquisition of Randy Moss last season. He could provide valuable veteran leadership to a young secondary that might have lost some confidence after lapses that cost the team dearly in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. The 49ers understand they aren't getting the All-Pro player he once was. But if he proves effective in a man-to-man role, he could be valuable addition considering his meager cap number.

The bottom line is the 49ers will need their corners to play better in 2013. General Manager Trent Baalke has outwardly endorsed the notion of creating competition in training camp and Asomugha will push the incumbents for their jobs, while the team could also add to that competition through the draft.

Cornerback doesn't stand out as a major position of need given the talented group that San Francisco already has. But Brown will be a free agent after the season and the team will need to find a long-term replacement either this season or the next if they don't elect to re-sign him.

Either way, with 13 draft picks, there's a good chance Baalke finds at least one player he wants to add to the competition in the mid or late rounds while he emphasizes the safety, tight end, defensive line and outside linebacker positions earlier on.

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