49ers hope Rogers, Whitner, Williams solve secondary issues

Carlos Rogers needed a change.

The veteran cornerback is in the right place for that with the San Francisco 49ers, who are making big changes this summer on a defense that has lost five starters.

Rogers is in a position to fill one of those voids, but that's not the only thing that convinced him to start fresh on the opposite end of the country after spending his first six NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins.

"I wanted something new, an environment that is not (revolving) around superstars and who's the next player coming to the team," Rogers said Friday. "I needed a change out of Washington and just wanted a group of guys willing to work and get better. This team is hungry, and the attitude of this team, I wanted to be part of that."

Considered one of the top cornerbacks available in free agency this year, Rogers steps into a secondary that's getting a makeover under the direction of new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Rogers and safety Madieu Williams both signed one-year deals with the 49ers earlier this week.

Rogers is in line to replace Nate Clements, who started all 16 games at right cornerback for San Francisco last season. Clements was released last week.

The 49ers also announced Saturday that they have officially signed safety Donte Whitner to a three-year deal.

Whitner, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, spent five seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He registered 140 total tackles last season with seven passes defensed and an interception. According to ESPN on Thursday, the three-year deal is worth $11.75 million, including $4 million guaranteed.

The 49ers are not expected to re-sign veteran free agent Dashon Goldson, who started all 16 games at free safety each of the past two seasons. San Francisco also has lost nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and linebackers Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson to free agency. Those three defenders also started every game last season.

The ninth player selected overall in the 2005 draft, Rogers started 63 of the 66 games he played for Washington the past five seasons. He becomes one of the most experienced veterans in a young San Francisco secondary that's anxious to improve on the team's No. 24 ranking in passing defense last season.

"Guys are willing to work here, and everybody is on the same page," Rogers said. "The whole team is being put in a new system where everybody has to learn. All of us together are helping each other out. Once we get on that same page, we'll all be equal."

Rogers has landed in a contest with fifth-year veteran Tarell Brown for the starting cornerback position opposite Shawntae Spencer, who has started 32 consecutive games for the 49ers at left cornerback.

It's already shaping into one of San Francisco's closest competitions for an open starting job.

Brown started four games in 2009 and punctuated San Francisco's season-ending blowout of the Arizona Cardinals in January with a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. He has been practicing with the first unit since training camp began and sees an opportunity to remain there with the new coaching staff.

Brown doesn't expect that to change now that Rogers has arrived.

"They definitely have to bring in guys to push all of us," Brown said. "Carlos is a good player, but I feel I'm a good player as well. This is a fresh start for everybody. Everybody's trying to prove themselves and make a mark, trying to make a name for themselves. And that's what I'm trying to do as well."

Brown and Rogers are the only cornerbacks on the roster besides Spencer with more than two years' NFL experience.

The 49ers selected Chris Culliver in the third round of the draft, and the rookie was backing up Brown until Rogers practiced with the team for the first time Thursday.

"The coaches have done a great job of seeing the type of talent we have, seeing what we do best, and they're catering around that," Brown said. "Carlos and I, we're definitely battling. But I'm a competitor as well, so I'm definitely not going to give it up easy."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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