Asante Samuel: With Him, Philadelphia Eagles Primed for Super Bowl Berth

Nikil RamanathanCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2008

After finishing dead last in the NFC East with a record of 8-8, the Philadelphia Eagles finally realized it was time to start spending money.

The Eagles proceeded to sign All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel to a lucrative six-year deal worth $57 million. The signing makes Samuel one of the highest paid corners in the NFL.

But more importantly, it makes the Philadelphia Eagles one of the best teams in football.

A big reason why the Philadelphia Eagles have underachieved for the past couple ofyears is due to injury problems. The Eagles always seem to be one of the most injury-prone teams in the league.

Last year was no different.

Injuries piled up for this team, on both the offensive and the defensive side of the ball. While McNabb found himself riding the bench for two games, A.J Feeley was able to step in admirably and nearly lead the squad to a shocking upset over the New England Patriots.

(Ironically, it was none other than Asante Samuel who picked off two of Feeley's errant throws to preserve the Patriots' then-perfect season)

But defensively, it seemed as if no player could fill the voids. With injuries to guys like Kearse on the front line and the secondary crumbling with injuries to Pro Bowlers Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins, as well as emerging safety Sean Considine, the defense was never really able to establish itself.

Consequently, the team found itself in many close games that came down to the wire. Without the depth in the secondary, the Eagles were unable to pull out victories, particularly against the likes of Chicago, Seattle, and New England.

While the offense was subject to blame in numerous cases, it was the underlying instability in the pass defense that was the real cause of the losing. And while the three-game win streak to finish the year is worthy of note, the Eagles knew it was time to make a move.

In comes Asante Samuel.

Samuel established himself as a shutdown corner in New England and he brings his skills to a team in Philadelphia that desperately needs his talent.

In just the past two seasons, Samuel has made 16 interceptions. Just to put that remarkable number in perspective, I should mention that perennial Pro Bowl corners Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson have picked off 13 and 12 passes, respectively, during that two-year period.

Samuel is also a versatile coverage man. He can drop back in zones and pick off passes, which is where he is at his best. But he can also play man-to-man defense exceptionally well. His uncanny ability to get in front of the receiver and his long arms are a lethal combination.

Samuel also brings to the Eagles something they are in dire need of: championship experience.

The Pro Bowl corner is a two-time Super Bowl winner, part of a dynasty in New England. During these championship years, Samuel earned tremendous respect from teammates and opponents.

More importantly, he played under one of the greatest coaches of all-time in Bill Belichick, and under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. With this opportunity, Samuel gained a wealth of knowledge at a young age which has helped him mature into a developed star in just five years.

Samuel now steps into Philadelphia, where he is expected to be a star. Alongside Lito Sheppard, the Eagles now have the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Add in safeties Sean Considine and the hard-hitting Brian Dawkins and you have a secondary that no quarterback wants to go up against.

But it will not be easy for Samuel. The City of Brotherly Love is certainly a misnomer when it comes to Philly sports.

With years of choking and failing to live up to expectations, Eagles fans are eagerly awaiting the 2008 season, but they will not be forgiving. Samuel will need to come ready to play football.

It is now or never for these Philadelphia Eagles. They have a healthy McNabb for the first time in ages. Brian Westbrook is in the prime of his career. The trio of Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, and DeSean Jackson is as good as, if not better than, the wide receiving corps of the early 2000 Eagles' teams.

Jackson also gives the Eagles their first real threat for special teams since Brian Mitchell.

And the defense, thanks to the acquisition of Samuel, is as strong and healthy as it has been in years.

With this combination, all is set for the Eagles to return to the top of the NFC and make another run at the Super Bowl.