Four years ago, cornerback Nate Clements, who went by the nickname “Lock Down,” became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history after signing an eight-year $80 million contract of which $22 million was guaranteed.
In the four years with the 49ers, Clements was anything but a lockdown corner. He was consistently beat by quicker and faster receivers and eventually it became evident that Clements was actually the weakest cover corner on the team.
Thursday afternoon, the 49ers cut Clements freeing up close to $7.5 million and putting the 49ers at $15 million under the salary cap.
The move allows the 49ers to make a strong run at whom many players and football experts believe is the best cover corner in the NFL: Nnamdi Asomugha.
A four-time Pro Bowler and first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, Asomugha is being wooed by the New York Jets and 49ers. The Houston Texans were also considered major players in the Asomugha sweepstakes, but instead opted to sign former Bengals corner Johnathan Joseph.
That leaves the 49ers and Jets, and the 49ers may be the front-runner.
For one, they have more cap room than the Jets ($15 million to the Jets’ $10 million), and two, Asomugha played college and pro ball in the Bay Area.