A few weeks back I took a look at the 49ers pending free agency. One player left off that list was cornerback Nate Clements who is technically still under contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Clements should have been on that list in hindsight the team has made no secret of the fact that Clements must re-structure his current deal to remain a 49er in 2011. Many people mocked the 49ers for giving Clements an eight-year $80 million deal in the 2007 offseason (then a record for a defensive player) calling it a desperate move by the secondary starved 49ers.
As alarming as the deal was it was hardly as bad a contract as many made it out to be. This is not the deal the Redskins gave Albert Haynesworth because the 49ers back loaded the contract giving them flexibility to cut ties with Clements in the latter years of the deal. And it’s a good thing because his salary is due to increase significantly to the tune of over $15 million in 2011 alone.
Nate Clements is in a way the Alex Smith on the defensive side of the ball; (obviously not nearly as loathed by fans) he didn’t live up to expectations and isn’t expected to suddenly be a Pro Bowler. But, bringing him back still makes sense for the team since they didn’t make a significant upgrade at the position in the draft and Clements is still the best CB currently on the roster. Expect the 49ers to take a similar approach with Clements as they will with players like Manny Lawson, Aubrayo Franklin and Dashon Goldson, they have a price in mind if the player is willing to play for that price he will be back, if not the team will go in another direction. (For more on the 49ers 2011 FAs check out: http://ninernoise.com/2011/05/03/49ers-free-agents-who-stays-who-goes/)
I do not like Clements the $15 million CB, I didn’t like Nate Clements the $7 million CB very much either. If the 49ers and Clements can come to an agreement on a reasonable contract say two to three years at $4-5 million a year then I’m on board. He’s not a “lockdown” CB as he likes to call himself (http://www.lockdown22.com/) he’s still a good CB and would be a hot commodity for teams in the market for a #2 CB or possibly a free safety. He’s still one of the very best DBs in the entire NFL in run support and can serve as a punt returner if needed. That’s good news for me and any other 49er fan who wants to see #22 continue his career here in SF if you listen to Clements himself.
When I asked general manager Trent Baalke last week whether Clements would be on the team in 2011, he said: “I don’t know. You’d have to ask Nate. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you right now.”