When the 49ers began working toward a contract extension with third-year cornerback Tarell Brown in late September, it was apparent that he figured into the team’s future.
Well, the future has arrived.
Brown is set to take over at left cornerback for Nate Clements because the 49ers’ coaches believe he matches up better against the Indianapolis Colts’ receivers. The Colts use a lot of three-receiver sets, so Clements will probably be on the field for most of the game, too.
In all likelihood, veteran Dre’ Bly will be the 49ers’ fourth cornerback on Sunday.
The San Francisco Chronicle made mention of this change in today’s paper, as Brown confirmed starting in “all alignments.”
I asked coach Mike Singletary after Friday’s practice whether Brown would start to take on a larger role. Clearly, Singletary was not quite ready to make any announcement:
“I think for Tarell Brown, it’s just something all the way from training camp, just trying to get him back in the mix and trying to get him on the field more to play more,” Singletary said. “It was just a shame, kind of like [WR] Brandon Jones when
Brown was in competition for a starting job whe training camp opened, but he sustained a toe sprain that forced him to miss most of camp.
“I think Tarell Brown has worked himself in a situation to try and get more playing time,” Singletary said. “So it’s just something that we have to monitor as coaches and really try and put him in the best position to win.”
I’m told this is a one-week demotion for Clements based on the team’s belief that Brown matches up better against the style of receivers the 49ers will face against the Colts.
Clements and his physical style is better suited to bigger wideouts. The Colts’ biggest receiver is 6-4 Hank Baskett, who has just one catch this season. Clements might return to his usual role next week against the Titans.
Still, this is a significant move for the 49ers to give Clements a reduction in playing time.
After all, Clements scheduled salary takes a leap to $6 million next year. A cornerback who makes that much should have the coaches’ confidence to be successful against any type of receiver.
The 49ers will have to determine whether his play over the final half of the season warrants that kind of financial commitment. (If the 49ers parted ways with him, he’d count $5 million against he cap, so next year would be the first time they could save cap space by releasing him.)
Cornerback Shawntae Spencer has returned from ACL surgery to play very well. Spencer is locked up contractually through 2012, and Brown is now signed through 2013.
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