Is Nnamdi Asomugha's NFL Career Officially Over?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 5, 2013

The long-running joke is that NFL actually stands for "Not For Long," an allusion to the fact that success (both individual and team) can be extremely fleeting in the league.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is the poster child for that acronym.

It wasn't that long ago that Asomugha, 32, was mentioned in the same sentence as Darrelle Revis. There were more than a few people who felt that Asomugha was the best cornerback in the league.

That seems like a million years ago now, and it's a very real possibility that Asomugha has played his last down in the NFL.

As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, the San Francisco 49ers made several roster moves on Monday. Among them was Asomugha's release:

This was just the latest in a freefall for Asomugha that's been going on for over two years.

It wasn't always this way. After bursting onto the scene with eight interceptions for the Oakland Raiders in 2006, Asomugha quickly developed a reputation as one of the best in the business.

Nnamdi Asomugha Coverage Stats 2008-2010
TargetsComp.Pct.TD AllowedCov. Ranking*
* Per Pro Football Focus
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In 2008 and 2009, Asomugha was a true "shutdown" corner. He allowed just 37 total catches over that span, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and earned both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors both years.

Asomugha was even better in 2010. His ranking at PFF slid a bit, but Asomugha allowed all of 13 passes to be completed in his direction all season long. That's less than a single catch per game.

It was no wonder that "Alphabet" entered the 2011 offseason as the single most coveted free agent on the market, eventually inking a five-year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

At the time, then-head coach Andy Reid was over the moon about the signing, telling ESPN, "He's one of the best—if not the best—cornerback in the National Football League."

It was at this point, just when everything seemed to be going so well, that the wheels fell off.

By any measure, Asomugha's first season in Philadelphia was an absolute train wreck. The centerpiece of the Eagles' "Dream Team" free-agent spending spree, Asomugha had by far his worst NFL season, ranking 88th among cornerbacks according to Pro Football Focus.

Nnamdi Asomugha Coverage Stats 2011-2012
TargetsComp.Pct.TD AllowedCov. Ranking*
Per Pro Football Focus

The next year, he fell out of the top 100 altogether in 2012.

With a $15 million salary for the 2013 season, it came as absolutely no surprise when the Eagles released Asomugha back in March. A few weeks later, Trent Baalke and the 49ers signed Asomugha on a one-year, $1.35 million deal.

It was an addition that was full of sound and fury, yet signified nothing. Asomugha was bypassed as the team's No. 3 corner by Tramaine Brock and appeared in only three games, making one start and recording two tackles. 

Now, with the 49ers needing a roster spot to activate fellow corner Eric Wright, a player who was once called "the best cornerback in the NFL" became the most expendable player on the 53-man roster.

The question now becomes: Is this the end of the line for Nnamdi Asomugha?

Assuming he wants to play, probably not. There are more than a few NFL teams who are a mess in the secondary, including Asomugha's old team in Oakland. The San Diego Chargers badly need help at cornerback. Same for the Detroit Lions.

However, any team interested in Asomugha needs to approach him with their eyes wide open. As his time in Philadelphia showed quite clearly, Asomugha isn't very effective either in zone coverage or manning the slot.

He doesn't appear nearly as effective as he once was in man coverage, either. Maybe it's due to age. Maybe the disaster in Philly ruined his confidence. Maybe Asomugha was never the player we thought he was, and the legend was bigger than the man behind it.

The odds are pretty good that some cornerback-needy team will roll the dice, hopeful that the four-time All-Pro can recapture past form, however long the odds.

With that said, it's also possible that this is it—the end of the line. And that an NFL career many thought would one day end with enshrinement in Canton instead ended with a fizzle.

Not for long, indeed.


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