Manny Lawson will join former 49ers teammate Nate Clements in Cincinnati. Lawson plans to sign a one-year deal with the Bengals worth $3 million, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Lawson's exit from San Francisco was foreshadowed last year when he sought a contract extension but was not granted one. Lawson did not take part in the team's voluntary minicamps and OTAs in 2010.
Along with tight end Vernon Davis, Lawson was a first-round draft pick in 2006. Then-coach Mike Nolan and then-personnel director Scot McCloughan envisioned the lanky and athletic Lawson as a pass-rush force off the edge. But while Lawson developed into a reliable starter, he never had more than 6 1/2 sacks in a season. Last season, he was taken off the field on third downs, much to Lawson's frustration. Lawson had 2 ½ sacks in 2010.
The 49ers already have lost three starters from their 2010 defense: ILB Takeo Spikes (San Diego), CB Clements (Cincinnati) and Lawson. Two more players, NT Aubrayo Franklin and S Dashon Goldson, are free agents who are still on the free-agent market. The 49ers are considering re-signing both.
Some - including me - felt that Lawson was better suited as a 4-3, strong-side linebacker because he holds up well against the run and because he is very good at covering tight ends. That indeed may be his role with the Bengals.
I've gotten a lot of inquiries as to whether Franklin, who visited the 49ers today, signed a deal with the 49ers. As of late Monday night, he had not.
-- Matt Barrows