As the signing frenzy picked up speed on Wednesday, NFL teams are scrambling to figure out their roster moves. The reporting in the last 24 hours that the San Francisco 49ers have lost free agents Takeo Spikes and David Baas as well as the report that backup quarterback David Carr will be cut suggest that the front-office seems intent on having a tight rein on salaries.
The loss of Baas in particular leaves a hole in the offensive line, and the 49ers have to shuffle their current roster or hope recent undrafted free agent Chase Beeler out of Stanford can step right in.
At the same time, the loss of those three veteran players offers an opportunity in terms of freed-up money. And that’s why the blogs and news sites are suddenly rich in rumors that the 49ers are in serious play for what many consider to be the top free agent of 2011 – Oakland Raider cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
As the lockout ended and players started reporting to camp, there was little doubt that Asomugha was the free agent. A first-rate shutdown cornerback whose only rival might be Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, Asomugha reportedly has been courted by the Cowboys, the Eagles, the Jets and Titans.
Moreover, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement forces teams to spend a greater amount of money on salary – it’s called the “floor” amount. That means even teams reticent in free agent signings like Cincinnati and Buffalo have more money to spend. That means more teams in the bidding, and that can only drive up Asomugha’s salary.
Earlier this month, 49er General Manager Trent Baalke said that the 49ers wouldn’t be aggressive in signing free agents. Thus many 49er fans thought Asomugha to be out of the 49ers' price range. Now that Spikes, Baas and Carr are off the books, that frees up about $12 million in salary the team expected to have to pay.
Is there enough money to persuade Asomugha to stay in the Bay Area? Here are four reasons why the 49ers should bet the house in trying to sign Nnamdi Asomugha.