49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

February 1, 2012
Corner market: 49ers could part ways with Spencer


Shawntae Spencer is a good example of how two coaches can look at the same player and see something entirely different. In 2009, Spencer was the dark-horse winner of a three-way competition to be the 49ers' starting cornerback opposite Nate Clements. Observers figured the job either would go to Tarell Brown or Dre Bly. However, the defensive coordinator at the time, Greg Manusky, picked Spencer, who was returning from an ACL injury that year, based largely on his form, technique and knowledge of the defense.

Spencer started the next 32 games and was penciled in as the starter this past season until he suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp. He aggravated the injury after trying to come back too soon, then never was able to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio that he deserved to start. Spencer, who turns 30 this month, only was active for nine games this season and was inactive for both playoff games. He finished the season behind Carlos Rogers, Brown, Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock on the depth chart.

The day after the season ended, Spencer sounded like a guy who believed he has played his last game in San Francisco. He is due to make $3.2 million in base salary alone in 2012 and is likely to be released and become a free agent just as Nate Clements was last season.

"I've been on that right corner since I've been here," Spencer said. "It's like seeing my lady with another guy." He said the best advice was from his brother, who picked up on the lady-with-another-man theme. "There's plenty of women out there," Spencer said.

Rogers also is a free agent. He had the best season of his career, started all 18 games and made his first pro bowl. Rogers has said on multiple occasions that he'd like to return to the 49ers. But he also turns 31 before the season, and there certainly is a chance he and the 49ers will not see eye to eye on a contract. The 49ers are likely to offer a shorter-term deal; Rogers will want a long-term contract.

If Spencer departs, the 49ers would have only four cornerbacks under contract for next season: Brock, Brown, Culliver and seventh-round pick Curtis Holcomb, who tore his Achilles before training camp and who resumed running by season's end. Practice squad player Cory Nelms, who spent training camp as a cornerback, is now being eyed as a safety although he could be asked to switch when the numbers at both positions are better settled.

Here are the 44 cornerbacks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents:

Jason Allen, Texans
Will Allen, Dolphins
Alan Ball, Cowboys
Ronde Barber, Buccaneers
Will Blackmon, Giants
Zackary Bowman, Bears
Phillip Buchanon, Redskins
Jarrett Bush, Packers
Brandon Carr, Chiefs
Michael Coe, Giants
Reggie Corner, Bills
Travis Daniels, Chiefs
Cortland Finnegan, Titans
William Gay, Steelers
Cletis Gordon, Panthers
Corey Graham, Bears
Brent Grimes, Falcons
Kelvin Hayden, Falcons
Rod Hood, Rams
Justin King, Rams
Kelly Jennings, Bengals
Tim Jennings, Bears
Adam Jones, Bengals
David Jones, Jaguars
Nate Jones, Patriots
Pat Lee, Packers
Elbert Mack, Buccaneers
Anthony Madison, Steelers
Richard Marshall, Falcons
Rashean Mathis, Jaguars
Antwaun Molden, Patriots
Dimitri Patterson, Browns
Tracy Porter, Saints
Carlos Rogers, 49ers
Aaron Ross, Giants
Benny Sapp, Vikings
Lito Sheppard, Raiders
Donald Strickland, Jets
Terrell Thomas, Giants
Leigh Torrence, Saints
Justin Tryon, Giants
Frank Walker, Cowboys
Jonathan Wilhite, Broncos
Eric Wright, Lions

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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