49ers’ secondary under the spotlight

The 49ers finished the 2009 season with 11 defensive backs under contract. Potentially, there could be a lot of turnover in the secondary in 2010.


There are four free agents, and several other questions about players who are signed for the upcoming season. As I see it, there seems to be little doubt Shawntae Spencer, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown will be on the team.


But there are some questions about all of the others, including veteran performers Nate Clements and Michael Lewis.


Clements was demoted from the lineup for the Nov. 1 game against the Colts. Then, he sustained a broken shoulder blade that ended his season. His scheduled salary for 2010 is a whopping $6 million. Lewis has been among the 49ers’ leading tacklers in each of his three seasons with the club. But three concussions last season in short period of time is a reason for concern.


The 49ers can be expected to take approximately 15 defensive backs into training camp. Last summer, that total included three undrafted rookies. The 49ers’ activity in the draft will likely have a major impact on which veterans return.


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Under contract (7))

CB Tarell Brown (signed through 2013) – He started four games in the middle of the season, and continued to see significant action in the 49ers’ nickel package after he was replaced in the starting lineup. He continues to figure into the team’s long-term plans.


CB Nate Clements (signed through 2013) – The 49ers are better with Clements on the team. But can they arrive at a mutually accepted salary?


S Dashon Goldson (signed through 2010) – He started slowly in his first season as a starter, but got better and better as the season progressed. He had four interceptions and three forced fumbles. He gives the 49ers versatility because of his ability to play free or strong safety.


S Michael Lewis (signed through 2012) – He ranked third on the team in tackles (108, according to the coaches’ film review). When he had a quad strain in December, he was subbed out in passing situations.


S Reggie Smith (signed through 2011) – He has yet to earn the trust of the coaching staff. This will be a make-or-break offseason for him.


CB Shawntae Spencer (signed through 2012) – He was a surprise starter when the season began. Now, it will be a surprise if he’s not a starter for the 49ers for the length of his contract.


S Curtis Taylor (signed through 2012) – Has size and speed. He spent final weeks of season on injured reserve with a slightly torn hip flexor.


Scheduled free agents (4)

CB Dre’ Bly (UFA) – He started six games and recorded three interceptions. Because he signed a one-year deal, he must hit the open market before the 49ers can re-sign him. The first date that could happen is March 5.


CB Walt Harris (UFA) – He sustained a torn ACL during the 49ers’ offseason program. He’ll turn 36 in August. The guy is a consummate professional. But his age, combined with his return off a serious injury, will be factored into the equation.


CB Marcus Hudson (RFA/UFA) – He wins one of the final roster spots every summer. He ranked second on team in special-teams tackles while seeing limited action on defense. The 49ers will probably keep him around this offseason, but he’ll have to win his roster spot again.


S Mark Roman (UFA) – He turns 33 in March. There will probably be no hurry to re-sign him, but the coaching staff is certainly not averse to bringing him back for his play in the 49ers’ dime package.


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