Shawntae Spencer is not a cornerback who should stay unemployed for very long. The San Francisco 49ers announced his release on Thursday for a couple of reasons, none of which fall into the category of "not performing to expectations." In fact, Spencer continually outperformed what was expected of him while playing for the 49ers, and was always better than he'll ever be given credit for. It was injuries and a lack of familiarity that made the 49ers go in another direction - they simply had other plans for the cornerback position.
A lockout and some training camp injuries forced Spencer into inactivity for much longer than he was actually injured, and once he did return, he got hurt again. These aren't injuries that look terribly bad on his resume, considering it was turf toe that sidelined him a second time (or something like it), and that's essentially unavoidable. In short, the 49ers just weren't able to dedicate time to catching him up to speed on the system and giving him time when they have a guy like Carlos Rogers having a breakout year and rookie Chris Culliver trying to learn the ropes.
Now, the 49ers are trying to get younger at the position, with Perrish Cox being brought in as a guy who is high on potential, and there's not a whole lot of room for an aging Spencer. More than that, there's not a whole lot of room for a guy who is making more than $3 million and was not healthy in 2011.
And that's why the cut was made, more than anything - he's not going to make $3 million per year. That isn't to say he can't play at that level for one season, he just can't convince a team of that before actually getting onto a football field. Before all of the lockout nonsense, Spencer had worked his way into the starting lineup and was easily better than Nate Clements at most things - especially coverage.
Spencer won the starting job back when he wasn't even considered a factor. He wasn't even given the "dark horse" candidate label, he just simply was a non-factor. Then he impressed Greg Manusky and the rest of the 49ers coaching staff, and he got the job. He covered very well, though he didn't force a lot of turnovers. One thing Spencer did very well was cover Larry Fitzgerald, something that remains somewhat of an anomaly at this point.
At any rate, I'm establishing that Spencer has something left in the tank, providing that he's healthy, and will find a team and get some playing time in 2012.