Although he's 31-years-old and will be 32 by the end of next season, Asante Samuel is still one of the NFL's best cover corners in the game. For one, the man has earned four Pro Bowl and three All-Pro selections and has played in three Super Bowls.
Sure, he's not the most impressive corner when it comes to run support, but that's not his priority as a coverage defender in a pass-heavy league. Samuel's purpose on the field is to lock down and when the opportunity arises, make plays.
Even more impressive, Samuel has maintained a high level of consistency throughout his career
Impressively, he's defended at least 10 passes every season, with the exception of his rookie year. Since 2005, he's recorded at least three picks each year and Samuel has also forced six career fumbles.
If you throw at him long enough, he'll make you pay with a pick that more often than not will end up being a pivotal moment in the game.
But to me, that doesn't mean Asante's critics are all crazy, or that the Eagles shouldn't trade him, as they almost certainly will by the end of the month.
So to determine where Samuel could end up, here are his best fits for the 2012 season.
5. St. Louis Rams
Playing opposite of Cortland Finnegan would immediately create of the league's best cornerback tandems. Finnegan is another complete player who can dominate in press coverage, play up to the run and has the awareness to react quickly in zone.
St. Louis also has a stud pass-rusher in Chris Long, so Samuel will benefit from playing a lot of man coverage. The Rams will get challenged more on the ground with the upgraded secondary, but an improved offense via the draft will change the game complexions in Asante's favor.
Hence, more opportunities to make plays in high-scoring affairs.
4. Cleveland Browns
Along the same line as St. Louis, Samuel to Cleveland creates an awesome cornerback tandem with Joe Haden to take pressure off the Browns' front seven. Fortunately, Cleveland has promise up front with Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, not to mention linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and two first-round selections.
Provided that the Browns add an offensive weapon to help Colt McCoy and defend better against the run, Cleveland can make significant strides with Samuel locking down in 2012.
3. Buffalo Bills
With what has potential to be the NFL's best front seven in 2012, the Buffalo Bills need one more piece to complete their defensive puzzle. Asante Samuel at cornerback is the perfect solution as he'll rarely have to worry about playing against the run with Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Marcell Dareus controlling the line.
Also, Buffalo will be expected to apply a lot of quarterback pressure: therefore, allowing Samuel many more chances to get interceptions. After all, the man has supreme field awareness skills (42 picks and 120 defended passes over the last seven seasons).
Just imagine how dominant the Bills' defense can be with Asante taking away half the field behind a consistent pass rush.
2. Carolina Panthers
Last season, the Carolina Panthers fielded a top-10 offense and finished the regular season with a 4-2 record. Unfortunately, the defense was one of the worst and is desperate for help in the secondary.
Now, there is promise with defensive end Charles Johnson and a healthy Jon Beason. Plus, the 2012 draft is upcoming, and we can expect defense to be the main priority. Still, the Panthers need that shutdown corner in the pass-happy NFC South to compete with Atlanta and New Orleans.
Samuel is the perfect complement to the front seven and offense, because he'll allow more time for the pass rush and the Cats will be in many high-scoring games. In short: numerous playmaking chances for Samuel.
1. Detroit Lions
The biggest problem area for Detroit in 2011 was the pass defense. It cost the Lions the No. 5 seed after allowing a boatload of yards to Green Bay in Week 17 and the Saints just thrashed in the postseason.
The addition of Samuel on the outside will allow the safeties to play more to the weaker side of the field and Detroit to blitz up the middle. Samuels can play with consistent inside leverage to take away the slant and since the safeties are helping with coverage opposite him, the linebackers are freed up to make plays.
Now, consider that Detroit made the postseason with just a dominant passing offense and the Lions become legit NFC title contenders with an upgraded secondary.
John Rozum on Twitter.