San Francisco defensive change leads to move

Updated: July 15, 2005, 8:14 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers acquired cornerback Willie Middlebrooks from the Denver Broncos on Friday in a trade for defensive end John Engelberger.

The deal swaps two young defensive players who had fallen out of favor on their original teams.

Middlebrooks, the Broncos' first-round selection in 2001, was a disappointment in Denver, never earning a regular starting job in four seasons. He will join Ahmed Plummer and Shawntae Spencer in the 49ers' improved defensive secondary.

"It's my hope that he would at least be a third ... corner for us," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "We're hoping he competes for the second, even the first spot. We haven't had a lot of durability at the position, as well as continuity."

Middlebrooks faces misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault and harassment in the Denver suburb of Aurora, stemming from an alleged fight with a female friend early on New Year's Day. A trial is scheduled for Oct. 11, but Nolan said the 49ers had no qualms about Middlebrooks' character.

"He certainly made a bad choice in the one incident, but he certainly had no [negative] record prior to that," Nolan said.

Engelberger, a second-round draft pick in 2000, led the 49ers with six sacks last season, but was thought to be too small to play defensive end in San Francisco's new 3-4 scheme. Free agent Marques Douglas was signed in April to take Engelberger's starting job, and Engelberger missed the 49ers' minicamps with a wrist injury.

"We're in need of some depth in the secondary, and we do have a couple of extras where Engelberger was playing," Nolan said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press