Editor's note: The 49ers have officially announced the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha. Check back with CSNBayArea.com later this evening to hear from the three-time Pro Bowler.
Cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown started all 37 games the past two seasons for the 49ers in the regular and postseasons. Chris Culliver, a two-year veteran, generally played well as the third cornerback during the 2012 season before struggling in the 49ers' Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Is Asomugha better than any of the 49ers cornerbacks who saw significant playing time last season?
"That's a fascinating question," said Greg Cosell, who studies coaches film as senior producer for NFL Films and "NFL Matchup." Cosell took a brief break Wednesday morning from evaluating film of college prospects to talk about Asomugha and the 49ers' cornerback position.
"He has not been very good the last two years," Cosell said of Asomugha. "If you separate the player from the name, based on the last two years, he is a declining player who is near the end of his career."
Cosell said a number of coaches at the NFL scouting combine last month told him they were surprised the Philadelphia Eagles gave Asomugha the blockbuster $60 million contract as a free agent two years ago. The feeling was that Asomugha's skills were already on the decline after eight seasons with the Raiders, Cosell said.
"He did not play well the last two years," Cosell said. "And the fact that he was on the market for so long at a premium position and then signed a one-year deal tells you all you need to know."
Asomugha (6 foot 2, 215 pounds) was generally regarded as a bad fit for the Eagles' defense, in which the corners played a lot of zone coverage. He appeared to lack the agility to shift from covering one receiver to another. Asomugha is best suited to play man-press coverage. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Raiders while playing almost exclusively man coverage.
On March 12, the Eagles released Asomugha, who turns 32 in July. Two days later, Asomugha visited the 49ers. He also visited the New Orleans Saints. After being on the free agent market for a full three weeks, Asomugha agreed to a one-year deal with the 49ers for a reported $1.35 million that includes no guaranteed money.
In other words, if Asomugha is not better than the cornerbacks the 49ers already have on their roster, the club can release him at any point before the start of the regular season and he would not receive a penny of that contract. Asomugha must earn a roster spot by beating out one of the incumbents during the offseason program and training camp.
Brown, who enters the final year of his contract, is coming off his best NFL season. But Brown's starting job will be challenged with the addition of Asomugha, Cosell said.
"They feel Tarell Brown can be upgraded," Cosell said. "I know this for a fact. Asomugha is competition."
The 49ers are committed to cornerback Carlos Rogers for one more season, a source told CSNBayArea.com recently. Rogers is scheduled to make $5.85 million in salary in 2013. Rogers was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2011. Like Asomugha, Rogers turns 32 in July.
"I don't think he had quite the same year as the year before," Cosell said of Rogers. "Overall, they probably have some concern about their corner position."
So even with the addition of Asomugha, the 49ers might not be finished addressing the cornerback position in the offseason. They could look to add a corner in the middle rounds of the draft. The 49ers hold 13 picks in the April 25-27 draft.
"Normally, cornerbacks with size don't move as well, so therefore they're not viewed as first- or second-round picks," Cosell said. "Guys like Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman are rare, those 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2 guys who are dynamic and explosive."
Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Connecticut), Tharold Simon (LSU), Marc Anthony (Cal), Jonathan Banks (Mississippi State), David Amerson (North Carolina State) and Aaron Hester (UCLA) are among the most intriguing cornerbacks with size and ability who should be available after the first round, Cosell said.