Asomugha wants to prove to 49ers he can still play

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 8:51 pm

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers feel Nnamdi Asomugha isn't washed up.

Asomugha is betting on it.

The veteran cornerback, whose reputation took a hit the past two seasons in Philadelphia, agreed to a modest, one-year deal with the 49ers on Tuesday. Asomugha will be paid a base salary of $1.35 million and could earn another $1.65 million in incentives, according to a league source with knowledge of the deal.

What's significant is the deal doesn't include any guaranteed money, meaning the 49ers could cut him with no future obligations.

That no-guarantee deal is fine with Asomugha, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Eagles two years ago and still is owed $4 million by Philadelphia this year, meaning money wasn't an issue in his decision.

Asomugha, 31, is eager to prove his two disappointing seasons in Philadelphia were an aberration and that he can still play at the level that earned him three straight Pro Bowl invitations while with the Raiders.

According to those who know him, he wanted to join the 49ers to return to the Bay Area – he played at Cal – and because he felt the 49ers had an excellent shot at returning to the Super Bowl.

Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, a good friend, said this week the 49ers also were an attractive destination because Asomugha felt comfortable with coach Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh was an assistant with the Raiders in 2003 when Oakland drafted Asomugha in the first round and signed Gbaja-Biamila as an undrafted free agent.

Gbaja-Biamila said he was confident the 49ers would use Asomugha in press coverage, like the Raiders did with much success. The Eagles asked Asomugha to play a lot of zone coverage, and he and the Philadelphia defense struggled for two seasons.

"I know one thing is true – (Harbaugh) can connect to players," said Gbaja-Biamila, who 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."

Though Asomugha will be the most recognizable member of the 49ers' secondary, his spot on the roster – much less in the starting lineup – is far from guaranteed.

While the 49ers' pass defense struggled during the playoffs and Super Bowl, the unit played well last season, finishing tied for third in pass defense and mostly preventing long pass plays. The 49ers gave up 19 passing touchdowns during the regular season; only six teams allowed fewer.

Asomugha will compete with established players Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver for playing time. Backups Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock, a restricted free agent, also will figure in the mix, and the team could add another cornerback in the draft.

The 49ers have shown interest in big cornerbacks since the start of free agency, and Asomugha, 6-foot-2, had built a reputation as one of the better press cornerbacks in the league.

Asomugha visited the 49ers more than two weeks ago. He also met with the Saints, whose defense is now being run by former Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and he had been deliberating between the two teams.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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