Don't expect cornerback Nate Clements to go anywhere next season - not to free safety and not to the waiver wire. Despite Shawntae Spencer's improved play, Clements' big 2010 salary - he's set to earn $6 million - and his Week 8 demotion, the 49ers still consider him a starting cornerback. Mike Singletary said as much this week when discussing how he'd prefer not to have receiver Josh Morgan returning kicks next season.
"In terms of having your starting wide receiver be your kickoff guy," Singletary said, "I just don't get excited about that. No more than Nate returning punts in the Indianapolis game, your starting corner. No, I don't get excited about that. But, sometimes guys have to step up and do that. That (return man) is a priority for us this offseason."
Clements, of course, broke his shoulder returning a punt against the Colts and hasn't played since. He has, however, been a limited participant in practice this week.
The 49ers have other question marks at cornerback because three players - Walt Harris, Dre Bly and Marcus Hudson - will be free agents at the end of the season. Harris commands a lot of respect in the locker room and has performed much of his rehab from ACL surgery in Santa Clara, an indication he wants to come back. The 49ers, however, are leery of how well his body will hold up at age 35.
Hudson will be a restricted free agent if there is no new collective bargaining agreement (it's not likely to happen) and the 49ers should be able to bring him back at a low cost. Bly, meanwhile, was on the verge of being released after his Deion-esque interception-turned-fumble against Atlanta. However, he has supplanted Tarell Brown as the starter since then and has played well. The 49ers would like him back, but Bly probably wants to test the free-agent water at the end of the season.
-- Matt Barrows