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Thursday, October 27, 2011
Asante Samuel and lessons in free agency

By Mike Sando

The San Francisco 49ers made very few waves during the free-agent signing period.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was the biggest name available, and the 49ers had a clear need at the position. I even made an air-tight case for San Francisco making a play for him.

The 49ers' general manager, Trent Baalke, later explained why the team has been so careful in free agency over the past few seasons. He said the 49ers wanted to reward their own players, as reflected in deals for Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Joe Staley. The organization was also reluctant, in general, to dramatically change the dynamics within the locker room by throwing out of whack the financial pecking order.

The 49ers' thinking came to mind when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel recently ripped management for playing "fantasy football" with players. Samuel said he had no problem with the team signing Asomugha and acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, even though both players played his position. He said he was most upset by the team's efforts to trade him. But the acquisitions were obviously related to the trade efforts.

Samuel might be the only player in the Eagles' locker room upset by the situation. Asomugha has been one of the best players at his position in the NFL. It's not like the Eagles overpaid for a marginal player. But the 49ers came out fine at cornerback by signing Carlos Rogers to a one-year deal, and they didn't risk dynamics in the locker room.

That air-tight case for signing Asomugha has leaked momentum amid the 49ers' 5-1 start, particularly given how well the team has played on defense.