Nnamdi Asomugha will be the highest paid free agent of the 2011 NFL season.
No matter what the rules are of that eventual free agency period, the former Raider cornerback will draw the biggest contract of any unrestricted free agent.
There is a good chance that Asomugha won’t be worth the contract, at least in the eyes of some critics. A couple of years from now, some analysts will break down the amount of dollars per interception, or amount per pass breakup and several of those analysts will contend that there were smarter uses of that cash.
They might be right, depending on what team eventually signs Nnamdi.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not predicting a drop in the All Pro corner’s play; I fully believe that he will continue to be dominant for the next four years, which is the length of time that his next contract will be functional for based of guaranteed money, no matter what length is announced.
A free agent lockdown corner of Asomugha’s ability, however, fills a very specific niche; not every team would be smart to be suitors. Obviously, any team would be better with his talents in their secondary, but for some teams the increase in talent of their back end would not be proportional to the money spent.
The Houston Texans are not one of those teams.
There are several reasons why barring an injury to Asomugha, that the former first rounder would be worth every penny. Some of those reasons are more applicable to on the field results than others, but all of them should be convincing to owner Bob McNair that he is worth the surely large investment.
By now, even the casual NFL fan knows of Asomugha’s proficiency as a cover corner. In the last two seasons, he has been thrown at 54 times for 23 completions. That includes blanketing Andre Johnson, who has just five receptions for 94 yards in the last three games in which Asomugha covered him.
Maybe that’s why Johnson is trying to recruit Asomugha to come to the Texans. Who better to know how truly talented the free agent corner is than the best receiver in the NFL after he has been stymied as he has?
The presence of a lockdown corner would allow newly hired defensive coordinator Wade Phillips all sorts of latitude to dial up pressure to help the rest of the secondary. If he knows Asomugha is good in man coverage, that frees an extra blitzer without depriving safety help to the corner on the other side of the field.
The attraction for Johnson and the Texans isn’t just Asomugha’s individual production though.
The Texans have had one of the youngest rosters in the league for quite some time now. This is due to both their insistence on building through the draft, but also their inability to develop franchise players from those draft picks in the long term.
This youth is especially exemplified in the Texans secondary. After the selection of two cornerbacks and a safety in the recent draft, the most veteran member of the position group is likely to be Glover Quin who will be making a position change so some of his experience will be moot.
Having a consummate professional like Nnamdi would pay more dividends than just the individual coverage that he would provide, which would be good on its own. Brandon Harris, Rashad Carmichael and, most importantly, Kareem Jackson would be learning by example from one of the best corners of our generation.
At his current age of 29, it is possible that in 2014 Asomugha would no longer be worth the huge money he’d still be receiving as an average to above average 33 year old corner. Even if that is true and he is being out played by Jackson or Harris, his example likely would be one of the reasons they even ascended to that talent level.
Many Texans writers prefer the strategy of pursuing a tier two free agent corner like Bengal Jonathan Joseph. The crux of their position is based on the theory that the talent drop off will be much less than the drop off in price.
This would allow the team to sign decent free agents at other positions of need.
Joseph would be a great addition, but the Texans would lose out on more than just a talent disparity. Besides the afore mentioned value that Nnamdi would provide as a player coach, he would also inspire the fan base like no other free agent signing could.
The Texans lost scores of fans last year while what could be argued was the worst secondary in the NFL was torched repeatedly. I personally believe that it will already be better due to a higher level of defensive coaches and drafting quality rookies, and signing a tier two corner would also go a long way to improving the beleaguered position group.
Signing Asomugha would convince the rest of the fan base though that the Texans were doing everything possible to fix the problem.
Moreover, disgruntled fans would be reinvigorated by the chance that the defense could actually be average, or dare I say it, good.
I can already hear the criticism that free agency should not be done on the basis of popularity. I make the point, however, because it is just another motivating factor for McNair who has shown in the past that he really cares about the opinion of the fan base.
He might be that more inclined to spend the inordinate amount of money necessary to land the most sought free agent in the league.
If the Texans fail to land Asomugha for whatever reason and sign someone like Ravens corner Josh Wilson, the result will still be good.
But Nnamdi has the potential to make the Texans exponentially better for several reasons, which is truly rare in free agency in today’s NFL landscape.
Will the price to score his services be ridiculous? Yes. Will his play decline before the end of his contract? Maybe.
I personally believe though, that the benefit to the Texans in the short and long term will still be worth the cost, no matter what his performance is like in four years.
Sometimes in life, even when you overpay for something, you still get a great deal. I think that signing Nnamdi Asomugha falls into this category.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments or on twitter (@JakeBRB).