I for one would love to see Nnamdi in the red & gold. Where do I sign up? It’s not that he’s 30 and in his prime, nor that he is a two-time First-Team All-Pro with three Pro Bowls on his resume. It’s that Nnamdi Asomugha represents something the Niners haven’t had since 1994 with Deion Sanders : A shutdown corner.
In Asomugha’s case, after his eight-interception season in 2006, opposing offensive coordinators decided that ignoring Asomugha was more beneficial than challenging him. In the next four seasons he had one interception per in ’07-’09 and none in 2010; proof that rarely did he get challenged. The last 49er cornerback with that pedigree was Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson from the 1960s and 1970s (which I’ve met and have an autograph of!).
Earlier this month, 49er General Manager Trent Baalke said that the 49ers wouldn’t be aggressive in signing free agents. Thus many 49er fans thought Asomugha to be out of the 49ers price range. Now that Takeo Spikes, David Baas and David Carr are off the books, that frees up about $12 million in expected salary the team expected to have to pay.
The 49ers ranked among the worst in pass defense statistics, and former All-Pro corner Nate Clements got much of the criticism. Asomugha provides a huge upgrade over Clements, whose contract would be cut from the expected $7 million off the payroll, another reason why the 49er front office might be considering signing Asomugha.
Asomugha’s collegiate career at Cal grew slowly but materialized in 2002. Credit goes to Oakland Raider managing general partner Al Davis in recognizing that this player would develop into one of the NFL’s best. Asomugha also has deep roots in the Bay Area. He has established a foundation to help underprivileged children, and those of us on the Bay Area who have had the opportunity to watch him play come away impressed with his countenance, sensitivity and awareness. He’s more than a cornerback; he’s someone who wants to make his name known for good things off the field, too. It is the smart move for a player who sees beyond the next game. Such a player is a great marketing tool for a franchise like the 49ers, who have had their PR struggles of late (oh, you know, goofy videos by front office personnel; the owner’s son “guaranteeing” the playoffs in 2010 after the team got off to an 0-5 start).
Many 49er fans hold onto the belief that their favorite team remains one of the elite franchises in the NFL, at least in terms of image. That can be debated, but signing a player of Asomugha’s caliber would be testament to renewing that commitment to being among the league’s elite. After all, the Asomugha Foundation aims to help orphans and widows. The Niners as a franchise could use some PR shining that comes with such an association.