Question: Matt, give us your rundown on the latest free agent signings. Pros and cons. Do any of the signings change priorities in the April draft?
Dan M., Concord
Answer: Well, the biggest pro was the signing of Nate Clements. Not only does he give the 49ers good depth at cornerback, they're hoping his presence allows them to be more creative on defense. That is, if they can count on him to lock down the opponent's top receiver, they can move safety Michael Lewis into the box where he could be another potential blitzer. At nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin is a bit of an unknown, but at the very least he provides depth.
The biggest con in my opinion is Ashley Lelie. For all his foibles, Antonio Bryant was a receiver who not only could stretch the defense, but fight for the football and block downfield. In other words, he personified the gritty, blue-collar mentality Nolan is trying to create in San Francisco. It seems to me that Lelie is more a "white collar" receiver. You can argue that the defense improved drastically over the last couple of weeks but that the offense weakened a bit. I have to believe that the wide receiver position is now either No. 1 or No. 2 on their draft priority list.
- Matt Barrows