SANTA CLARA So much for 49ers president Jed York's assertion this week that the 49ers would not be high rollers in free agency. As it turns out, the 49ers are a top contender for the biggest name on the free-agent market, Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
The NFL Network's Michael Lombardi, a good friend of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and a finalist for the team's general manager position earlier this year, reported Wednesday that the 49ers and Jets were Asomugha's most ardent suitors.
One of the 49ers' selling points: An aggressive defensive system that would allow Asomugha, 30, to showcase more than the man-to-man coverage skills to which he's been restricted in Oakland.
Another advantage is proximity. Asomugha, who was raised in Southern California, starred at Cal before being drafted by the Raiders in 2003, meaning he has lived in the Bay Area for the last 12 years.
Wednesday was busy for the 49ers and the league's other teams, whose business matters had pooled up during the four-month lockout. Among the happenings:
The 49ers lost one of their top free agents, center David Baas, to the Giants. Baas had been a priority to re-sign, and his departure leaves the 49ers with a hole in the middle of a young offensive line.
The team agreed to re-sign free-agent defensive end Ray McDonald to a five-year contract.
McDonald wants to start at left defensive end, a strong possibility if nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin leaves via free agency and Isaac Sopoaga, who played left defensive end the last two seasons, slides over to take his spot.
The team informed backup quarterback David Carr that he will be released today, according to Carr's agent.
That will free up more than $2 million in salary cap space and means the 49ers must acquire another free-agent quarterback, either in free agency or through a trade, before the season begins.
The team learned that running back Frank Gore, the focus of San Francisco's offense the last five years, plans to hold out of training camp.
Gore, who is coming off a hip fracture suffered in November, is entering the final year of his contract and is pressing for an extension.
The 49ers also agreed to sign free-agent offensive lineman Tony Wragge to a one-year deal.
Wragge provides depth at center, having started two games there for San Francisco in 2006. The team also has shown interest in longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz, who also is a free agent.
The team began signing its 10-man draft class.
Two of the rookies, guard Daniel Kilgore and fullback Bruce Miller, were signed as of Wednesday night, but most are expected to be under contract when training camp begins today with meetings, physicals and a conditioning test.
Asomugha, meanwhile, figures to land a massive salary, one that likely will make him among the highest-paid defensive players in the league.
The 49ers could clear enough space for such a contract by parting ways with another cornerback, Nate Clements.
Four years ago, the 49ers signed Clements to an eight-year deal worth $80 million. Most of that money begins to kick in this season.
If the 49ers release Clements, a strong possibility, it will free $15 million under the $120 million salary cap. Teams can begin cutting players today.