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Will Nnamdi Asomugha return to form in Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense?
It’s hard to fathom the 49ers squeezing another All-Pro into their robust, league-leading defense. But as Nnamdi Asomugha looks to get back to his roots in the Bay Area, San Francisco may have a sleeper candidate to do just that.
First of all, this signing has gone overlooked for several reasons.
Following two underwhelming seasons from 2011-2012, Asomugha was given his outright release from the Philadelphia Eagles. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks had a 107.3 rating when targeting him during that time (73 of 113, 1,074 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).
These career lows, followed by his release, were particularly startling given Asomugha’s free-agent prestige two offseasons ago and general notoriety around the league. In 2011, he was the No. 1 defensive player on the market, commanding a lucrative five-year deal that included $25 million in guaranteed money.
Only two years later, the former All-Pro cornerback did not sign until a month after free agency began, well after the talent pool had died down. He was not heavily courted, either, only drawing interest from New Orleans before inking a one-year, $1.7 million contract with San Francisco (via Spotrac.com).
In 2013, Asomugha, 31, joins the 49ers looking to rehab his career.
According to the new CB, the “adjustment hasn’t been that hard,” per Taylor Price of 49ers.com. The reports from OTAs have been positive so far, indicative of a systematic fit between Asomugha and Vic Fangio’s defense.
In a pressure-generating 3-4, he will be in an extremely advantageous position, especially competing in the two-man coverages employed by San Fran. This is a team that likes to get after the passer, while trusting its corners to line up and win their individual battles.
Despite questions about Asomugha’s age and his evident decline, there are several reasons to believe this new pairing could work out for all parties involved. His physical ability and new mindset—coupled with this apt system—may guide his return to prominence as soon as Week 1.
There are very few legitimate points on why Asomugha would not be able to succeed.
To draw a comparison, two similarly high-caliber defensive backs that have performed well into their 30s are Ed Reed (34) and Charles Woodson (36)—one of whom made the most of a career-defining team change, the other looking to do the same.
Reed had one of his best seasons at 32 years old, racking up eight interceptions in 10 games in 2010. Woodson has had his best NFL seasons in Green Bay, having gathered 38 career picks since joining the team in 2006 at age 30.
At this level, players stay in incredible shape, so anyone counting Asomugha out because he’s north of 30 years old may be doing himself or herself a disservice.
Even though there has been a lot of negative vibes toward him since his two-year regression in Philadelphia, he still has incredible potential and the license to sneak up on teams this season.
As one of the league’s few lockdown corners, Nnamdi Asomugha's impending comeback will be a storyline to watch.