Lawson follows trail from 49ers' defense

Manny Lawson's departure from the San Francisco 49ers appeared all but certain this offseason, particularly once the team drafted Aldon Smith.

LawsonLawsonExpectation became reality Monday night when Lawson, a 49ers' first-round pick in 2006, reached agreement with the Cincinnati Bengals on a one-year deal for $3 million, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The Bengals have become a halfway house for NFC West castoffs, welcoming Nate Clements and Deuce Lutui before Lawson signed with them. Lutui failed his physical -- he was overweight -- and went back to the Arizona Cardinals.

Lawson keeps himself in tremendous physical condition, so there's little risk he'll fail a physical.

The 49ers have steadily bled talent on defense recently. Takeo Spikes and Clements already left. Dashon Goldson and Aubrayo Franklin remain unsigned.

Each situation has appeared readily explainable. Spikes was getting up there in years. Clements' salary was untenable. Goldson was seeking riches despite coming off a so-so year. Franklin wasn't going to command the money associated with the franchise tag he bore recently.

The cumulative effect of those departures and potential departures could be significant, however. Are the 49ers better without Spikes? Are they better without Clements? Are they better without Lawson? Would they be better without Goldson or Franklin?

In most cases, the answers are in the negative.

Re-signing Goldson and/or Franklin would help quite a bit. They were the 49ers' highest-profile defensive free agents this offseason.