NFL Nation: Nnamdi Asomugha

The Denver Broncos have won the offseason title and free agency is not even four days old.

John Elway signed safety T.J. Ward to a four-year, $23 million deal that guarantees him $14 million. He stole cornerback Aqib Talib away from the New England Patriots with a six-year, $57 million deal that guarantees him $26 million. Then he thanked the Dallas Cowboys for their cap woes and unwillingness to pay DeMarcus Ware and signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $20 million guaranteed.

Ware will make $250,000 more with the Broncos this year than he would have with the Cowboys.

Add those three to an offense that will still put up points even if Eric Decker leaves and Denver should be viewed as the favorites in the AFC.

In fact, they might look like a "Dream …" Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat. "A Dream …" Man, there it goes again.

One more time: A dream team.

Could the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles serve as a reminder that a "dream team" doesn’t mean a Super Bowl team?

To refresh: The Eagles loaded up with Jason Babin (five years, $28 million), Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) and Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million). They traded Kevin Kolb and got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return. They added serviceable pieces in Ronnie Brown and Evan Mathis turned out to be a steal.

Then they signed Vince Young, who came up with the dream-team tag.

And Philadelphia finished 8-8.

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, so it’s hard to see an 8-8 season. But what happens if Manning gets hurt?
Three years ago, I stood in the Hawaiian sun at the Pro Bowl and asked then-New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis about the possibility of then-Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha joining him in the Meadowlands.

Three years later, Revis, a five-time Pro Bowler now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been linked to the Raiders in trade talks. But while Asomugha has retired after stints in Philadelphia and San Francisco, Revis could team with another cornerback for whom Oakland has high hopes -- last year’s top draft pick, D.J. Hayden.

Indeed, Hayden, who had a truncated rookie season that began with him still recovering from his near-death heart injury and ended early with a groin injury, would benefit from a stay on Revis Island.

The Buccaneers are expected to cut Revis, who is due a $1.5 million roster bonus on Wednesday, if they cannot find a trade partner, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Plus, the 2014 fourth-round draft pick the Buccaneers sent to New York last year as part of the package for Revis becomes a third-rounder if he is on Tampa Bay’s roster at 4:01 p.m. ET Wednesday. And with Revis making $16 million per year, the Raiders, with so much cap space, could afford such a hit.

What package could the Raiders send to Tampa Bay? It probably starts with the Raiders’ first-round pick, No. 5 overall. (The Buccaneers sent the No. 13 overall pick to New York last year in the Revis deal, while the Raiders used the 12th overall selection on Hayden.) But Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has said he likes his picks and sensible contracts, so that seems counter-intuitive, no?

No doubt Raiders coach Dennis Allen, a former secondary coach with the New Orleans Saints, would love to throw a defensive backfield featuring Revis and an improved Hayden at opposing teams.

And in a strange twist, acquiring Revis would be a nod toward the old-school Raider way -- Al Davis believed in building a team through its cornerbacks.
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers release cornerback Darrelle Revis on Wednesday, as reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, that would profoundly change the free-agent market.

Schefter also identified the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots as possible destinations for the shutdown corner known as Revis Island.

[+] EnlargeDarelle Revis
AP Photo/Brian BlancoWould signing cornerback Darrelle Revis be exactly what the Eagles have been preaching against?
For the Eagles, this development creates two predicaments.

First and worst, there is the timing. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has a game plan going into free agency. Any quick-strike moves -- targeting a safety, especially -- could be derailed if Roseman is seriously interested in Revis. Committing a big slice of salary cap to Jairus Byrd (just as an example) would limit the team’s ability to meet Revis’ contract demands, which are going to be substantial even if he agrees to renegotiate.

By holding on to Revis for the first 24 hours of free agency while they try to trade him, the Bucs are seriously impeding the planning ability of interested teams.

Of course, the Eagles could trade for Revis. But that would mean giving up assets, presumably a draft choice or two, and then taking on the ridiculous contract the Bucs signed with Revis last year. That deal pays Revis $16 million a year, with all of it counting against the salary cap.

The second predicament is what we’ll call Nnamdi Reflux Syndrome. Roseman has been preaching against big free-agent splurges based on the Eagles’ disastrous 2011 spree. The centerpiece of that, of course, was cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

The Eagles paid Asomugha $25 million for two pathetic seasons, including $4 million to go away. That is significantly less money than Revis would earn -- even if the Eagles were able to renegotiate his current contract. Revis would also become the highest-paid Eagle by a wide margin, and that kind of locker-room resentment is something else Roseman has warned against.

So getting Revis would fly in the face of what Roseman has said on the subject of free agency for two years. He has also said, however, the Eagles are always willing to make exceptions for exceptional players. And that is the issue at hand with Revis.

Revis will be 29 when the season starts, 1 year younger than Asomugha was in 2011. Revis is still arguably the best cornerback in the game, although he spent 2013 playing his way back from an ACL injury. He is also a very different personality type from the laid-back Asomugha. Revis thrived playing in the New York market with the Jets.

Once upon a time, the Eagles signed a free-agent cornerback named Troy Vincent. That worked out pretty well. But then, Vincent was just 25 when the Eagles lured him from the Miami Dolphins.

Roseman and the Eagles see the 2011 debacle as an example of thinking they were one or two major moves from winning a Super Bowl. If they were to pursue Revis with that idea, it would be a mistake.

But if they see Revis as part of building a strong team for the next four years and can find a way to integrate his contract into that long-term plan, it could be a perfectly sound move.

It is certainly an interesting one to discuss.

Eagles should be in win-now mode

January, 31, 2014
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PHILADELPHIA -- It is a word the Eagles hated using for years and it's a word that doesn't really apply to the franchise now, just one year into Chip Kelly's tenure.

Rebuilding.

In evaluating the decline of the team in Andy Reid's final years, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman have said the big mistake was thinking the team was always one move away from a championship. In trying to make that one decisive win-now move, the Eagles instead made mistakes that weakened their infrastructure.

[+] EnlargeHowie Roseman
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsGM Howie Roseman has said the Eagles will avoid lavish free-agent deals.
But it would also be a mistake to go too far the other way. The Eagles are not a rebuilding team right now. They were 10-6 and are defending NFC East champions. They have an offensive team with key skill players in the prime of their careers: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek. The offensive line, which is vital to the team's success, has three starters over the age of 30.

The goal should be simple: Keep adding talent around those core players until the Eagles are at the elite level of the teams that will play in the Super Bowl Sunday. That means using every tool available, including spending money on free agents when it is warranted.

The Denver Broncos weren't exactly thinking about a five-year plan when they signed Peyton Manning two years ago. The Seattle Seahawks splurged on a quarterback in free agency that same offseason. They signed Green Bay's Matt Flynn to a three-year, $26 million contract.

Manning had one of the great seasons ever and will start for the Broncos Sunday. Flynn is back in Green Bay as a backup. Russell Wilson became Seattle's starter and quickly emerged as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL.

If the Broncos had ruled out high-priced, quick-fix free agents, the Patriots would be in the Super Bowl. If the Seahawks had avoided drafting a quarterback that high after signing Flynn, San Francisco or New Orleans would be preparing for Tom Brady.

This isn't to say the Eagles should go crazy and throw big money at every flavor-of-the-month free agent on the market. But they also shouldn't rule out the occasional bold move. Yes, they were burned by Nnamdi Asomugha a few years back, but Reid's era of success was made possible partly by acquisitions like Hugh Douglas (in a trade, with a new contract included), Jon Runyan and, well, let's just admit it, Terrell Owens.

Roseman has said repeatedly that the Eagles will avoid huge free-agent deals. That would seem to rule out difference-making players like Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo and safeties Jairus Byrd of Buffalo and T.J. Ward of Cleveland.

And that's fine, provided the Eagles are able to obtain high-quality players in other ways. Seattle got 16-1/2 sacks in the 2013 season from free-agent pickups Cliff Avril (two years, $13 million) and Michael Bennett (one year, $5 million). Smart shopping is the key, whatever the price tag.

The key point is that the Eagles didn't make a mistake by signing marquee free agents. They made mistakes in player evaluation in both free agency and the draft. You don't stop drafting because you selected Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett, so you shouldn't rule out free agency because you signed Asomugha and Vince Young.

The Eagles made huge strides in one year because Kelly made excellent use of the considerable offensive talent he inherited, and because his overall approach in all phases reinvigorated a stale franchise. To make those next steps toward a championship-caliber team will require better players in a few key spots.

If Byrd, Orakpo or some other elite player can further that process, the Eagles shouldn't hesitate to go after him. There is no rebuilding, only building, and that process should be constant. The well-run organizations of the last decade understand that. The Eagles should know -- a few missteps aside, they're one of them.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Nnamdi Asomugha, a first-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2003 who spent the first eight seasons of his NFL career in Oakland, will sign a ceremonial one-day contract with the Raiders on Friday and retire as a member of the organization, the team announced Thursday night.

Asomugha left Oakland after the 2010 season and signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was cut after two seasons in Philadelphia, and signed this past offseason with the San Francisco 49ers. He appeared in only three games with the 49ers and was cut on Nov. 4.

Asomugha, 32, had 11 of his 15 career interceptions with the Raiders and finished his career with 80 passes defensed. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection as well as a two-time All-Pro in Oakland.
Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoyGetty ImagesLarry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy will look to keep their teams streaking on Sunday.
Bruce Arians and Chip Kelly come at their news jobs from very different places.

Kelly was the hot college head coach of the moment, hired by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to replace the institution that was Andy Reid. Arians was a college head coach, too, at Temple back in the 1980s. He got his job with the Arizona Cardinals, though, based upon years as an often-overlooked NFL assistant.

And now here they are. Arians’ Cardinals are 7-4 with a four-game winning streak, while Kelly’s Eagles are 6-5 after a three-game winning streak. Their teams meet at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday in a game with major NFC playoff implications.

ESPN.com reporters Josh Weinfuss, who covers the Cardinals, and Phil Sheridan, who covers the Eagles, take a closer look at the matchup.

Phil Sheridan: Bruce Arians is best known in Philadelphia as one of the rare coaches to survive a stint at Temple University. Nationally, he’s known for winning the Coach of the Year Award after filling in for Chuck Pagano last year in Indianapolis. How has he conducted business and how much of this four-game winning streak results from that?

Josh Weinfuss: I think all of it. Arians is the ultimate players coach and from everything I’ve heard about him from former players and current Cardinals who were with him in other places, he hasn’t changed a bit. He’ll tell the players like it is and if they can’t handle it, they have to figure out a way to deal with it. He’s not big on the sugarcoating, and the players appreciate it. As a head coach, he’s taken a little bit from each of the coaches he worked for and put it into play in Arizona. He’s learned how to delegate and put together a staff that complements him very well. On top of it all, he’s an offensive genius who stayed patient with this team while they learned his scheme, and it’s paying off.

On the topic of schemes, is Kelly’s high-octane offense here to stay or will he need to adapt as the season progresses?

Sheridan: Probably a little of both. Kelly already has adjusted to some degree. The foundation of his approach seems to be figuring out how a defense is designed to stop his offense and then exploiting whatever weaknesses and mismatches created by that design. When teams played man coverage and pressed to eliminate his bubble screens, Kelly shrugged and started throwing deep. When the Giants and Cowboys found a weakness in his run-blocking scheme, Kelly adjusted and got LeSean McCoy back on track. Kelly seems to enjoy the cat-and-mouse game with opposing coaches. That said, the foundations of what he does -- creating mismatches and exploiting weaknesses -- are as old as football. He just has some intriguing ways of getting there.

While we’re on that side of the ball, how has Todd Bowles been able to win the hearts and minds of a defense that thrived under former coordinator Ray Horton? And how important is having Karlos Dansby back in the fold?

Weinfuss: Bowles made one minor change up front and he’s been the glimmer in the defensive line’s eyes ever since. He went from a multi-gap system to a one-gap scheme, which has taken out the thinking from football. Now, the Cardinals front line can just rear back and go, and the changes are obvious. Darnell Dockett is having his best season in a while, Calais Campbell has emerged as one of the toughest defensive ends in the league and nose tackle Dan Williams has plugged the holes in the middle, forcing plays out to the edges -- and right into the hands of guys like John Abraham, Matt Shaughnessy, Daryl Washington and, of course, Dansby. He’s playing at the lowest weight of his career and he’s been able to fly around, going from sideline to sideline with relative ease for a guy who’s been in this league for 10 years. While everything for the Cardinals’ defense starts up front, each level has been benefiting from the line’s presence.

Let’s stay on defense. The Eagles have the worst pass defense in the league. How can they muster enough plays to slow the Cardinals' recently high-flying passing game under Carson Palmer?

Sheridan: Josh, that could be the question that determines the outcome of this game. The only answer I have is that, somehow, that’s just what the Eagles' defense has been doing in the seven games since Peyton Manning hung 52 points on them. They give up a lot of yards, but they haven’t given up more than 21 points in a game since then. They’ve been good in the red zone and have started generating pressure and, in turn, turnovers. Palmer provides a very good measuring stick. The Eagles have thrived against the Mike Glennons and Scott Tolziens of the world, although in fairness they played well against Eli Manning and Tony Romo, too. But Palmer and that Larry Fitzgerald fellow definitely represent the kind of test the Eagles must pass before being considered a good defense.

Speaking of Palmer, the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, there seems to be a Kurt Warner vibe at work here -- veteran guy getting one more shot to prove he still has it. Warner did -- does Palmer? What’s the ceiling on the offense with him at the helm?

Weinfuss: All the evidence from the past four games points to yes -- Palmer does have a Warner-esque resurgence in him, but that’s only because the Cardinals’ offense is finally working. If it was still struggling, we’d be talking about Palmer being replaced either now or after the season. Crazy how that works. Palmer is the perfect quarterback for a Bruce Arians scheme. He has a big arm and can make throws on a dime. And those two things will carry this offense as far as it can until Palmer makes bad decisions. Even though the bad decisions have been cut down during the Cards’ four-game winning streak, it would be na´ve of anybody to think they’re totally done with. Arizona is just getting lucky. Twice against the Colts, Palmer had probable interceptions dropped, and against Jacksonville two weeks ago, a well-timed timeout by Arians saved Palmer from a potentially costly interception. If Palmer can take chances without making ill-advised throws, the ceiling is quite high, especially with the depth at receiver, tight end and running back.

A lot of University of Arizona fans out this way are loving the fact that Nick Foles is starting and playing well. Is he Mr. Right for the Eagles in Kelly’s offense or Mr. Right Now?

Sheridan: That’s the question that will haunt the Eagles through the offseason. Foles has had some of the luck you described Palmer having. That seven-touchdown game against Oakland was partly the product of some of the worst defensive football I’ve ever seen (and I watched Nnamdi Asomugha jog through two years here). But Foles is smart, he’s accurate and you can see him gaining confidence and comfort with every game. Clearly, he is not the quarterback Chip Kelly would order from the factory. But as he continues having success and winning games, you have to wonder how far Kelly is willing to tailor his offense to Foles for the long haul. It’s the decision that will define the Kelly era, at least for the next few years. My gut says Foles is a good NFL quarterback, but Kelly will make a move to find his guy at the earliest possible convenience. If Foles keeps this up, though, my gut might be proven wrong.

Eagles defense owes a debt to Texans

November, 22, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- The timing is convenient for Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. Since the end of the regular season is right after Christmas, he can send his thank-you note to the Houston Texans along with those for the other gifts he receives.

Barwin
Ryans
Without DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin, linebackers who learned their craft in Houston, it's hard to imagine Davis' defense making the progress it has over the past few months.

"The thing that jumps off the film is the effort our guys are playing with," Davis said. "They view themselves as a high-effort defense. We're not a bunch of Pro Bowl names, pretty faces. We're scrapping and keeping people out of the end zone. It's hard work and high effort that's getting it done."

Ryans is the inside linebacker who converts Davis' play calls into proper alignments and assignments. Barwin is the outside linebacker with the skills and versatility to make some of Davis' best schemes possible.

Just as important, the two ex-Texans are a major reason for the defense's change in personality. Gone are team-second guys like Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha. Here are Ryans, Barwin and cornerback Cary Williams.

"We don't have any egos on the defense," said Barwin, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent this year. "It's fun to play with 11 new guys that their goal is to be a good defense and shut teams down. As long as we keep that, we'll be fine."

"It's totally different [this year]," Ryans said. "We have great chemistry, a lot of younger guys. We have fun together, not only here during the day at work, but outside of here. We go eat dinner together. It's really becoming like a brother, you know? You care for that guy on the field and off the field. It's good to have our defense come together in that manner."

Ryans was here last year, too. After being acquired in a trade, he was expected to play middle linebacker and help bring order to the chaos of Andy Reid's final season. But with assistant coaches Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn getting fired in-season, and with the epically poor play of Asomugha and the secondary, it was an impossible task.

It's no wonder Ryans and the rest of the returning defenders were so willing to embrace Davis' scheme. It represented sanity in the asylum.

"He's smart," Barwin said. "He's really smart. He prepares us for the plays the offense is going to run. You understand the schemes and how they're trying to attack you. That really helps you during the game."

Barwin said Davis' defense is more complicated than the 3-4 run by Wade Phillips in Houston. It relies on more communication on the field. That makes the in-season progress even more remarkable, considering it was a new scheme with new starters at seven positions.

And that makes smart, versatile players even more valuable. None of Davis' players are any smarter or more versatile than Ryans and Barwin.

Davis said Barwin "wears a lot of different hats" during a game. He might set the edge on his side of the field against a run play, drop into coverage with a tight end or rush the passer. He made a huge play Sunday against Washington, sacking Robert Griffin III in the red zone and forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Fletcher Cox.

As for Ryans, he is an extension of the coaching staff, making sure a young and developing group lines up correctly and goes in the right direction.

"DeMeco is the leader of our defense and he's having an outstanding Pro Bowl year," Davis said. "We couldn't be happier with everything DeMeco is doing for us."

That thank-you note to Houston should be a pleasure for Davis to write.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Has it really only been two-plus years since Nnamdi Asomugha was one of the top free agents, if not the most sought after free agent in the NFL after eight years with the Oakland Raiders?

Or is it more surprising that the two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback has been cut for the second time this calendar year, first by the Philadelphia Eagles in March and then Monday by the San Francisco 49ers?

Of course, Asomugha, who had his best years in Oakland, being unemployed has many Raiders observers and fans wondering if a homecoming could be in the works. Or if it’s even worth Oakland kicking the tires on Asomugha.

It’s hard to imagine general manager Reggie McKenzie shelling out big bucks for a 32-year-old cornerback whose coverage skills have diminished at a rapid rate the past two years and was a healthy scratch the past three games for the 49ers, who signed him to a one-year, $1.35-million contract. Plus, Asomugha thrived in man-to-man defenses in Oakland ... and the Raiders rarely play that brand of defense anymore. At least, not exclusively.

Still, what team could not use a veteran presence with little to no off-the-field baggage, one who could help show first-round pick D.J. Hayden a thing or two, along with Charles Woodson? Of course, the price would have to be right for the Raiders to even entertain the thought of bringing back Asomugha, who has never played on a winning team in his NFL career. In fact, only one of his teams since high school has had a winning record, the 2002 California Golden Bears, who went 7-5.

So what should the Raiders do -- kick the tires on Asomugha, or has that ship sailed?

Asomugha's decline remarkable

November, 4, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Two years after the summer of Nnamdi, the former star free agent finds himself unemployed for the second time in 2013.

Asomugha
In move that was expected, the San Francisco 49ers cut Nnamdi Asomugha on Monday and activated Eric Wright.

Asomugha had been a healthy scratch the past three games, and there was little reason to keep a 32-year-old cornerback who hasn't played well or helped on special teams. Asomugha played the first three games of this season for the 49ers and before suffering a knee injury. Tramaine Brock, has been excellent in Asomugha’s place. With Wright now activated, Asomugha was released.

Monday was a continuation of Asomugha's career downward spiral. Two years ago, Asomugha was the free-agent prize after the NFL lockout ended. The Eagles outbid several teams to sign him away from Oakland, where he had been one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL. Asomugha's play dipped dramatically after he signed with the Eagles, who parted ways with him in the offseason.

The 49ers were looking for veteran depth when they signed Asomugha to a one-year, $1.35 million deal. Now, they will hope he is claimed Tuesday so the remaining value of his contract is taken on by another team. Asomugha could draw interest from a contender that needs depth at cornerback.

Asomugha was on his way to being on a winning team for the first time in his 11-year NFL career. The 49ers are 6-2, but they will head down the stretch run without Asomugha.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers are going to get deeper at cornerback this week as they are expected to activate Eric Wright from the physically unable to perform list.

Wright
Wright was signed in the offseason to bring experience and ball skills to the defending NFC champions, and he will add to an already strong secondary. The 49ers cornerbacks have played well during the team's has string together a five-game winning streak. The starters are Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and Tramaine Brock has taken over as the nickel cornerback from Nnamdi Asomugha.

Asomugha, signed earlier this year, may be in danger of being cut to make room for Wright on the 53-man roster.

It will be interesting to see if Wright can become more than a dime cornerback on this unit. I asked ESPN analyst Matt Williamson his thoughts. He said he doesn’t think Wright will break into the top three.

Still, Wright's presence will make the team deeper and provide important injury insurance.

“It’s a pretty good group for sure,” said Williamson, who also said he thinks the unit will be better when pass-rusher Aldon Smith comes back.

Midseason look at Eagles' free agents

October, 31, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles signed a handful of free agents last offseason. The departure of one of them, nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, combined with the midway point of the season makes this a good time to see how general manager Howie Roseman fared.

"I think everything is an inexact science," coach Chip Kelly said. "Sometimes you miss on a draft pick. It's just what's available, what have you got to do, you've got to get your roster together. You always analyze at the end of the year. If this guy isn't exactly what we thought he was, why is that, and evaluate the whole process."

For perspective's sake, remember that the Eagles felt burned by free agency after the horrendous "Dream Team" crop -- led by Nnamdi Asomugha -- contributed to a 12-20 record in Andy Reid's final two seasons. And remember that Roseman was trying to stock a fairly empty cupboard on the defensive side of the ball without overpaying a la Asomugha and without a real feel for what coordinator Bill Davis was looking for.

• Safety Kenny Phillips was released in training camp after nagging injuries kept him from staking a claim to a roster spot. It speaks volumes that the former New York Giants' first-round pick, who was coming back from microfracture surgery, hasn't hooked on anywhere else.

Good deal, bad deal: Neither really. Phillips was a low-risk gamble that didn't work out. This one move was not an issue. The issue is the Eagles' inability to find good safeties over the previous four years.

• Sopoaga made a few million dollars because the Eagles had no one who could play the nose as they made the switch to a 3-4 defense. He was a solid veteran presence who, by all accounts, helped coach up the younger linemen on the team. Those linemen made him expendable, and the Eagles traded Sopoaga to New England this week for virtually nothing.

Good deal, bad deal: Bad deal, made worse when the Eagles drafted Bennie Logan in the third round out of LSU. If you're going young, go young. If they needed a vet, they could have hung on to Cullen Jenkins, who signed and is playing well with the Giants.

• Safety Patrick Chung has been a mixed bag. The former Patriots defensive back earned a starting job (against a relatively weak field, to be sure) but injured his shoulder in the third game of the season. Chung tried to come back too soon and has missed a total of four games. Meanwhile, rookie Earl Wolff has given the coaches a reason to believe he's the eventual starter.

Good deal, bad deal: For $3 million? Bad deal. There's no way to anticipate injuries, of course, but Chung hasn't given the Eagles much they couldn't have gotten from Kurt Coleman while Wolff was learning on the job.

• Tight end James Casey was the only significant free agent pickup on the offensive side of the ball. His three-year, $12-million deal made sense when it appeared Roseman was stockpiling versatile weapons for Kelly's offense. After eight games, in which Casey caught 2 passes for 23 yards, and was on the field for just 5 percent of offensive plays, the deal makes much less sense.

Good deal, bad deal: Bad deal, as much for Casey as anyone. You could also say that drafting tight end Zach Ertz in the second round was a mistake after spending so much on Casey. Either way, Roseman expended more capital than was wise on a position Kelly hasn't really utilized.

• Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams feel like a single entry. After parting ways with Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (the right move, regardless of DRC's play in Denver), Roseman needed somebody who could line up across from opposing wide receivers. He got the fire-and-ice duo of Williams, a mercurial ex-Raven, and Fletcher, a softspoken former Ram. Grading on a curve because of the overall inconsistency of a defense in transition, they have been better than expected. Or maybe competent play at the position just looks so good after two years with those other guys.

Good deals, bad deals: Good deals. Roseman paid more for Williams, who was coming off a Super Bowl title with the Ravens, but got a terrific bargain with Fletcher.

• Outside linebacker Connor Barwin was an intriguing signing. He had a huge 2011 season, with 11.5 sacks for the Houston Texans. He had only three in 2012, though, purportedly because he was used differently by coordinator Wade Phillips. As with Sopoaga, the Eagles really needed someone with the demonstrated ability to play OLB in the 3-4, and Roseman got Barwin for six years, $36 million. Unlike Sopoaga, they are getting production as well as a bell-cow for younger players to follow.

Good deal, bad deal: Good deal. The money sounds like a lot, but the majority of it ($23 million) comes after the third season and is not guaranteed. Barwin is earning his money.
LONDON – The San Francisco 49ers roster is about to change.

The 6-2 49ers -- who have won five straight games going into their bye week -- are poised to get much better. They have six players who are likely to come off various different injury/illness lists including linebacker Aldon Smith, receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, cornerback Eric Wright, rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine and rookie linebacker Nick Moody.

The 49ers will have to subtract from the 53-man roster with each activation. It will be interesting because this is a deep roster and some good, young players will be out. But that’s the trouble with having a good team. There’s no doubt the 49ers will get markedly better with the return of most of these players.

Here are some candidates to be removed from the roster: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, receivers Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton (only if he is put on the injured reserve because his foot is not responding), linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

The most likely to go are Asomugha, Moore and Cunningham. They have not had a role in the past several weeks.

Complicating matters (again, which is a positive in the big picture) is the special teams coverage units are much improved. So players like Kassim Osgood, Bubba Ventrone, Darryl Morris, Nate Stupar and Anthony Dixon will be difficult to cut even though their role is nearly all special teams. The 49ers know improved special teams make them much more dangerous and that’s difficult to tinker with.

The roster roulette will likely start to occur next week. Manningham, Wright and Carradine all must be activated by early next week.

Manningham takes an important step

October, 24, 2013
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LONDON – Mario Manningham is not all the way back with the San Francisco 49ers, but the team made him feel that way during Wednesday’s practice.

Manningham -- working with the first-team offense -- scored a touchdown in practice. On cue, ever-excitable guard Alex Boone decided it was time to mark the occasion.

Manningham
“Boone and everybody else decided that it was time to have an eruption,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “And we all had a celebration on the field welcoming him back ... everybody just went nuts welcoming him back.”

The key is Manningham working with the first team. That is an indication that he is close to returning. Manningham is in his second practice week coming off of the physically unable to perform list, meaning the 49ers must decide on activating him by Nov. 5. Odds are he will play Nov. 10 against Carolina after the 49ers’ bye week.

He would be a huge boost to an offense that is desperate for receiver help.

Meanwhile, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said cornerback Eric Wright -- who also must be activated by Nov. 5 -- is coming along.

"He’s getting better and better," Fangio said. "And [we] put him in there yesterday with some of the defensive stuff. Last week he primarily did the scout-team work. This week we’ve put him in there with the defense ... few snaps here and there. And he’s done well. Obviously he’s not comfortable in the system yet. But he’s a guy that we think, once he kind of grasps it, he’ll grow leaps and bounds quickly because he’s played in the league. He’s done a lot of the things we do. He just has to learn to work with our guys and our lingo."

It will be interesting to see what happens when Wright is activated. Tramaine Brock has been terrific as the No. 3 cornerback, but I’m sure the 49ers will find room for Wright. His activation could mean the end of a short San Francisco tenure for Nnamdi Asomugha, who was hurt in September and lost his job to Brock.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 31-17 win over the Tennessee Titans:

Jones
Kaepernick
Read-option returns: 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had 68 yards on 11 carries using the read-option offense. It was the most the 49ers used it this season. Kaepernick said it was because the Titans gave the 49ers opportunities to use it.

Praise for Morris: Rookie cornerback Darryl Morris has been one of several young 49ers who have played well. He is making a huge impact on a strong special teams. He caused a fumble that resulted in a Kassim Osgood touchdown in the fourth quarter. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said watching Morris on the play was like watching “an arrow go through snow.” Although Eric Wright is potentially coming off the physically unable to perform list in the next couple of weeks, there is no chance Morris will be cut. It could be another sign veteran Nnamdi Asomugha will be released. He has been a healthy scratch the past two weeks.

Aldon Smith update: Harbaugh gave some incremental news on Smith. Harbaugh said he is hopeful Smith can play this season. He said he is hearing Smith is making progress in treatment. Harbaugh said the plan is for Smith to be back at team facility from alcohol treatment in the next couple of weeks. The 49ers are 4-0 since the star pass-rusher went into treatment 27 days ago.

Homecoming: Several 49ers are from the Tennessee area and many players had a lot of family there. Harbaugh said the mother of rookie receiver Quinton Patton cooked for the team Saturday night. Harbaugh said Smith’s mother was at the game as well.

Willis, McDonald ready to go

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
3:40
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Patrick Willis is an active San Francisco 49er again.

Willis
The star inside linebacker is expected to start. He hasn’t played since Week 3 against the Colts when he suffered a groin injury.

Defensive lineman Ray McDonald is also active as expected. He suffered a biceps injury last week and did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. But the team doesn’t think he is at risk of suffering further damage to the bicep if he continues to play.

McDonald
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and running back LaMichael James are healthy but still not active. Asomugha lost his No. 3 cornerback job when Tramaine Brock played well the past two weeks while Asomugha was out with a knee injury.

James missed the first three games with a knee injury. But the 2012 second-round pick did play the past two weeks. There have been signs that the team is not confident in James in pass protection. Thus, he may have a difficult time getting back on the field.

Asomugha and James potentially could be in danger when the 49ers starting bringing back several players from injured lists in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports is reporting that the 49ers have interest in Giants’ receiver Hakeem Nicks. It makes sense the 49ers are in need of a receiver and they have been also linked to the Browns’ Josh Gordon and the Titans’ Kenny Britt. The trade deadline is Oct. 29.

Tampa Bay signed guard Patrick Omameh off the 49ers’ practice squad. They now have an opening on the eight-player squad.

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