The Philadelphia Eagles have been looking to trade All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel all offseason, and it seems likely a deal will get done before the NFL draft. Samuel has already agreed to restructure his contract to help work out a trade, and this seems to be a strong indicator that Samuel’s time in Philly is done.
Samuel has a lot going for him if the Eagles want to trade him, namely that he’s a premier cover corner, a ballhawk for the football and an interception machine, especially come playoff time.
Samuel is also a better man-to-man corner than people realize; last year, he held opposing wide receivers to just a 47.5 completion percentage, 4.85 yards per attempt and a 52.4 passer rating (per Pro Football Focus). The season before, Samuel held receivers to an incredible 3.2 yards per attempt, and he is coming off four Pro Bowls in the last five seasons, including a First-Team AP All-Pro selection.
Samuel is also 31 years old, he’s missed seven games to injuries in the previous two seasons and he’s immensely lacking in his physical skills.
Samuel is poor against the run and he’s even said to be a gambler when it comes to covering receivers, as it is his tendency to bait the opposing quarterback to throwing the ball and then attempt to jump the route. The numbers against Samuel last year showed his tactic worked, and that’s got to be worth something significant in terms of a trade.
Samuel has the talent to be traded for a first-round pick, but because of his age and high salary, the Eagles will likely swap him for a third- or fourth-round pick. Here are five teams that could be in the running for Samuel.
The Detroit Lions are a good fit for Asante Samuel for several reasons. They already lost Eric Wright to Tampa Bay (for a ridiculously-overpaid contract), and they run a wide-nine defense that is identical to that of the Philadelphia Eagles defense.
Samuel saw success in the Eagles defense in 2011, limiting opposing wide receivers and forcing quarterbacks into a 52.4 passer rating on passes thrown his way.
Samuel would also complement Chris Houston, an underrated corner that picked off four passes and had a 65.4 passer rating on throws his way.
The Tennessee Titans are the team that has been linked to Asante Samuel the most, and the veteran playmaker would be a terrific addition to a unit that just lost Cortland Finnegan, but still has young players Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner.
Samuel plays an extremely different style of football than Finnegan, as Finnegan was one of the league’s more physical corners and Samuel lacks the aggressiveness to replace him in that regard. Samuel is a superior ballhawk though, and he has a penchant for big interceptions that have made him one of the best cornerbacks in the game for the past five seasons.
The Titans whiffed on Peyton Manning and Mario Williams, and although they signed Kamerion Wimbley to a five-year, $35 million deal in free agency, the team definitely has the cap space to afford Samuel.
This would be an interesting scenario, as Asante Samuel played the first five seasons of his career with the New England Patriots before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.
A move to reunite Samuel with his former head coach Bill Belichick might work though, considering Samuel would be the clear-cut best corner on a team that gave up well over 5,000 passing yards in 2011.
Devin McCourty, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, enjoyed a marvelous Pro Bowl campaign as a rookie before giving up over 1,000 yards in pass defense in ’11, and he may be moved to safety. Kyle Arrington’s seven interceptions tied for the league lead, although it’s unlikely he can duplicate that success in 2012.
Samuel was a stud when the Patriots last had him, and he would be a tremendous addition to the defense. Belichick always has a slew of extra draft picks, and he would be sure to part with a third-rounder for a top corner like Samuel.
As a team, the Minnesota Vikings’ cornerbacks intercepted just three passes in 2011. Asante Samuel had that many himself in just 14 games, and he plays a different style of football that would complement well with Antoine Winfield.
Winfield is a terrific run stopper and excellent at rushing the quarterback from the cornerback position, while Samuel is a phenomenal player in pass coverage, although lacking in his ability to stop the run.
The Vikings have hinted that they are interested in taking Morris Claiborne with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, although it’s likely that that is merely an attempt to coax a team to trade up for the spot.
Trading for Samuel would take away the immediate need for a corner. Samuel is nearly 10 years older than Claiborne, but he’s probably a top-five cover corner right now.
The St. Louis Rams certainly have a hefty supply of draft picks they could use to swap for Asante Samuel, especially after the recent trade with the Washington Redskins for the number two overall pick. The Rams lost Ron Bartell to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason, leaving them with Bradley Fletcher and a slew of players that aren’t quite talented enough to start.
Samuel would be an instant leader on a Rams defense that was much maligned last season. He would be reunited with former teammate Quintin Mikell, and he and Fletcher would actually provide the Rams with one of the better cornerback duos in the game.
The Rams aren’t quite built to win now, but if they draft right in 2012 and 2013, the team could be in prime position to make a run at an NFC West title in the near future.