For two seasons now, Asante Samuel has been the subject of trade talks. The Philadelphia Eagles finally sent the four-time Pro Bowl corner to the Atlanta Falcons today, receiving in return a mere seventh-round draft choice.
Samuel is 31 years old and he was set to earn a base salary of $9.4 million in 2012 and $11.4 million in 2013. Factoring in his signing bonuses, Samuel would've cost the Eagles $10.5 million against the cap in ’12 and $12.5 million in ’13. That’s a lot of money to pay for any one player, although in my opinion, Samuel was well-worth the cash.
I don’t think football fans or Eagles fans realize just how good of a cornerback Samuel is. I know, he can’t tackle worth a hoot and he’s not good against the run. But the majority of being a cornerback is covering wide receivers, and Samuel excelled in that area. His numbers last year put him among the elite pass-covering corners in the game: 47.5 completion percentage, 4.85 yards per attempt and 52.4 passer rating in 61 pass attempts thrown his way. Samuel is also a playmaker in the postseason, with seven career interceptions and four touchdowns in just 13 playoff games.
Samuel is said to be a gambler, a player that tries to bait the opposing quarterback to throwing a pass so Samuel can jump the route and pick the pass off. If he is a gambler, so be it. I’ll gladly take those numbers I listed above.
In 2010, Samuel was even better, allowing a paltry 3.2 yards per attempt on throws his way. That’s about the yardage you get for handing the ball to the fullback.
A seventh-round pick is literally like nothing. The player the Eagles select with that probably won't make the team. The Eagles basically dumped his salary. What makes it worse is that a trade apparently was in the works last fall that would have given the Eagles a second- and third-round pick from the Detroit Lions for Samuel.
By trading Samuel, the Eagles will be able to move Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back to the outside, giving the Eagles a corner tandem of DRC and Asomugha. In that case, the Eagles would almost assuredly draft a cornerback high in the draft.
The problem is that DRC is a free agent after 2012. Many people seem to assume that just by moving DRC back to the outside, a role he feels much more comfortable in given his size and aggressiveness, he will get back to the Pro Bowl corner he was in 2009. Don’t forget though that DRC was downright awful in 2010—Pro Football Focus rated him as the worst cornerback in the NFL out of exactly 100 qualifiers.
DRC gave up over nine yards per attempt that season, allowed four touchdown passes, committed eight penalties and was awful in the run game. I understand he was playing with a weak secondary and a poor overall defense supporting him, but those numbers don’t make me feel better about giving up Samuel. Juan Castillo will likely use Asomugha correctly in 2012 after an awful trial-and-error season in 2011, but it’s taking a big leap of faith to assume DRC will bounce back to the player he was in ‘09—three seasons ago.
If DRC is a liability again in 2012, he probably won’t be back, which means the player that the Eagles draft high in this year’s draft will have to start (unless the Eagles sign a player in free agency or Joselio Hanson or Curtis Marsh somehow becomes a starting-caliber player).
I personally would have traded DRC and kept Samuel. DRC isn’t near the player Samuel is, but I think it’s safe to say a team would have given up something better than a seventh-rounder for DRC who is five years younger and set to make just $1.128 million next year. By keeping Samuel and Asomugha, the Eagles would have two players playing in the role in which they are comfortable. Samuel is signed for two more seasons and Asomugha for five more, so the Eagles—always in a win-now mode—would have a stellar cornerback tandem to get them that elusive Super Bowl ring.
The Eagles do like the bump and run coverage on receivers, and Samuel wasn't good at that. But he was just fine in pass coverage his first four seasons with the team. Trading him does free up money the Eagles can use to undoubtedly extend LeSean McCoy. But a seventh-round pick? You have got to be kidding me.
Maybe Reid thinks Marsh can be the starter soon (I certainly don’t see that happening) opposite Asomugha and he is planning to let DRC walk in free agency after next season. Maybe he thinks a player like Brandon Boykin or Dre Kirkpatrick or someone else entering the draft can fill the void.
Trading Samuel in the NFC also doesn’t seem like a smart move. But that’s what people said when Reid traded Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins and Reid seemed to know what he was doing there. Maybe he has this all worked out too.
Let’s hope so.