The 49ers have struck a deal with veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a league source confirmed this afternoon. Asomugha, who played at Cal, who had his best NFL seasons while with the Raiders and who makes his offseason home in the Bay Area, will sign a no-risk, one-year deal with the 49ers.
He will have the most recognizable name of any of the 49ers' cornerbacks in 2013. However, his spot on the roster, and certainly the starting lineup, is not guaranteed. The contract is worth $1.35 million in base salary with no guaranteed money, meaning the 49ers could cut him with no future entanglements if they so desired. The deal is worth as much as $3 million if Asomugha meets specific incentives. The 49ers had a little more than $3 million in salary-cap space before Asomugha's signing. The team still has enough space to sign its draft class.
That modest salary is fine with Asomugha, who struck a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles two years ago and still is owed $4 million by Philadelphia this year. Money is not an issue for him.
Instead, Asomugha, 31, is eager to prove that he is not washed up and that his two painful seasons in Philadelphia were an aberration. According to those who know him, he wanted to join the 49ers to return to the Bay Area and because he felt the 49ers had an excellent shot at returning to the Super Bowl.
His good friend, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, said in a recent interview with The Bee that the 49ers were an attractive destination because they promise to be a winning club again and because Asomugha felt comfortable with Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh was an assistant with the Raiders in 2003 when Oakland drafted Asomugha.
Gbaja-Biamila said he was confident that the 49ers would use the tall (6-2) and long-limbed Asomugha like the Raiders did with so much success -- in press coverage. The Eagles asked Asomugha to play a lot of zone coverage, and he struggled over the past two seasons.
"I know one thing is true - (Harbaugh) can connect to players," said Gbaja-Biamila, who now works for the NFL Network. "Not every player may like his style, but I think you respect the fact that he's a former player and he gets it. He's not one of those guys who will have one of those coaching egos, saying, 'This is my way.' Players fit like puzzles, and I think he would know how to use Nnamdi like a puzzle piece, just to be the perfect fit. ... I think Nnamdi was just out of place in Philly."
Asomugha will compete with established players like Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver for playing time. Backups Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock, a restricted free agent, also will figure into the mix, and the team could add another cornerback in the draft.
The 49ers had shown interest in big-bodied cornerbacks since the start of free agency and Asomugha has a reputation as one of the better press cornerbacks in the league. Asomugha visited the 49ers more than two weeks ago. He paid a subsequent visit to the Saints and had been deliberating between the two destinations.
-- Matt Barrows