The San Francisco 49ers continue to throw their money at “big name” players this offseason, having their name attached to nearly every available defensive back that has been available in free agency this offseason. After missed on both Ed Reed and Louis Delmas, watching Dashon Goldson sign with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and signing Craig Dahl from the St. Louis Rams, they seemed to have finally found their man… Nnamdi Asomugha.
After watching Chris Culliver get destroyed in the Super Bowl, and seeing Carlos Rogers fail to contain NFC West competition in the latter half of the season, San Francisco undoubtedly needed to upgrade the position this offseason to bolster their hopes of returning to the “big show.” Fail attempts at landing other perennial talents clearly left the team willing to take fliers on players in desperation; enter Asomugha. On one side, the one-time Oakland all-star did rank in the Top 10 in a number of statistical categories last season. However, most of those were areas in which a defensive backs typically would like to keep his name away from. Asomugha allowed 15.9 yards per catch (3rd worst among CBs that took 75% of snaps), 305 yards after catch (6th), committed 7 penalties (10th), allowed 5 touchdowns (T-8th), and allowed a 120.6 passer rating when thrown against last year (1st, or the worst in the league). The year before, playing on the “Dream Team,” his numbers were not much better. According to Pro Football Focus, Asomugha ranked 35th out of 42 cornerbacks that played at least 75% of snaps.
Some have attempted to give Nnamdi Asomugha a pass on his past two seasons, claiming the years were marred by the Philadelphia Eagles lack of talent in their front seven, which was only exacerbated by the offenses inability to put points on the board. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller tweeted yesterday that the San Francisco 49ers’ pass rush would inevitably help Asomugha in the secondary. However, people tend to forget that the 49ers’ pass rush was not extraordinarily effective outside of the Justin Smith/Aldon Smith combo. In fact, the ‘9ers were tied for 11th in the NFL in sacks, with only 38.0 takedowns, 19.5 coming from Aldon Smith alone. But, the “pass rush” is much more than merely sacks, it includes hits on the quarterback and pressures, which are something more consequential, occasionally resulting in poor throws that can lead to interceptions. With an encompassing measure of getting to the opposing quarterback, Pro Football Focus ranked the Philadelphia Eagles as the top “pass rushing” team in both 2011 and 2012, the two years of Asomugha’s tenure. So there goes that excuse…
If anything, joining the San Francisco 49ers will burden the fallen star more than ever, having to play on a defense that is constantly defending the pass as they nurse the lead compiled by their potent offense. In the NFC East last season, his biggest divisional competition was likely the oft-confused, oft-missing Dez Bryant, the injured Pierre Garcon, and Victor Cruz. Now he will have Percy Harvin, Larry Fitzgerald, Sidney Rice, and Chris Givens, who made a fool out of nearly every premier corner in the division last season; looking at you Richard Sherman. Oh yea… and no Tony Romo this time either. If he struggling handling Robert Griffin III last season, trying taking on Russell Wilson, who plays much smarter with the football in his hand and has Marshawn Lynch to back him up when the ‘Hawks do resort to the option game.
Luckily, Asomugha will have the added luxury of a perennial safety playing behind him, one who excels in communication within the secondary, fluidly exchanges receivers in coverage, and has the innate ability to be “in position” for help over the top… Craig Dahl. That is sarcasm, of course. But, Dahl is currently slotted as the starter on the San Francisco depth chart. The 49ers would be wise to address that position via free agency or the draft as well, but that is another story…
The bottom line remains that the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha does nothing to improve the secondary in San Francisco. Lucky for them, the move is relatively low-risk, handing him a one-year contract worth “up to” $3 million. However, the move could hurt them in terms of skill in roster depth, essentially throwing a stop-gap in the cornerback position and shooing away other potential free agent prospects. It also likely points to them avoiding the position in the draft, with six corners currently on their roster.
The San Francisco 49ers, as a whole, have done nothing on paper to show an improvement over last seasons’ roster. The losses of Isaac Sopoaga and Dashon Goldson will hurt defensively, and missing Delanie Walker and their offensive safety net, Alex Smith, are both certainly big hits. There is still the NFL Draft, so it is still extremely early in the offseason to be giving final grades to a teams. However, the addition of Nnamdi Asomughi does nothing to help the 49ers case outside of adding more “name brands” to the division.