Detroit Lions Signing Nnamdi Asomugha: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Michael SuddsCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2011

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Nnamdi Asomugha #21 the Oakland Raiders looks on from the sideline against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 28-13.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Nnamdi Asamugha on the open market? WOW! Asamugha is arguably the best shut-down cover CB in the NFL. He’s also going to be the most expensive player ever to sign a free agent contract in NFL history.

The Raiders set this up when they failed to blitz Asamugha off the edge. Just one sack would have triggered Nnamdi’s option clause at $16.8 million for another year.

Truth be told, the Raiders couldn’t afford the services of Nnamdi Asamugha's shiny new contract. So, in the pretzel logic of Al Davis, let him go without any compensation whatsoever.

C’mon, man.

I want to dance a jig when I think of Asamugha in Honolulu Blue. Asamugha was targeted only 27 times in 2010. That’s 27! Opponents don’t try their luck against him. He gave up only 13 receptions and zero TDs. One thing is certain: Asamugha gives up little, if anything.

Darrelle who?

In other threads, I did an impromptu analysis of the probable suitors, and the cost/benefit analysis on a “drive by” basis for each. Having digested the consequences of the higher than the sky cost for the services of the greatest CB in play, here’s where I’ve settled.


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The cost of bringing Asamugha to Detroit will be prohibitive. We all know this to be true.

Asamugha will be looking to sign his final professional contract with a team that will compete for a Super Bowl championship soon. He will want some very large guarantees built into that contract. Deservedly so.

Consider this: Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins was willing to shell out $100 million for DT bust Albert Haynesworth. What is the market value of Asamugha?

We can set the opening bid at six years and $102 million. Yep, that’s rather breathtaking for openers, but that’s what the winner of the Asamugha sweepstakes will be expected to pony up, if not more.

That price tag is neither capricious or unrealistic, I assure you.

Asamugha can easily point out that his known value, along with his character and reputation, is several steps ahead of Albert Haynesworth, the $100 Million Dollar Man.

So, how do we assess the hidden cost of such a huge contract? First off, the Lions will likely be unable to tender offers to free agents Cliff Avril, Andre Fluellen, Chris Houston and Turk McBride.

In addition, the Lions will be curtailed in their free agent signings. David Harris and Chad Greenway will have to be passed on since the Lions will be in danger of blowing out the salary cap.

Even Tennessee’s LB Stephen Tulloch might be too expensive to pursue.

Sprinkle in a few million dollars more for the insurance on Asamugha’s contract. The Lions would be foolish not to do so.

Does the cost in talent and depth justify such a huge outlay? Perhaps, when we consider the benefits.


  Asamugha is widely considered to be the best in the business at the cornerback position. He may be the final piece in the Lions quest for a Super Bowl run.

Along with a dominant defensive line featuring perennial all-pro DT Ndamakong Suh and Louis Delmas on patrol, the Lions will have an elite defense with the addition of Asamugha.

The Lions would have the luxury of drafting LBs and DBs almost exclusively this year, and will likely find the answer to their prayers there.

If the Lions can upgrade the linebacking corps and find a complement for Asamugha, they will be one of the elite defenses in the NFL for many years to come.

The Great Unknown

Asamugha’s contract, along with every player who’s contract is due to expire, will be null and void at midnight, Feb. 27. This is the official end of the NFL’s fiscal year. No team may sign him until March 1.

Which brings us to the CBA. It has been widely speculated that the NFL might postpone free agency until 2012. This is due to the new CBA defining the rules for restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The NFL wants to move free agency out from four to six years. The NFLPA is balking at this. What makes this an important point is this: If the NFL locks out the players (anytime after March 1), the players will de-certify the NFLPA, and sue the NFL under the Sherman Antitrust Act. In effect, every veteran will become a free agent.

To put it in the simplest terms, no CBA, no free agency. It’s about bargaining points and leverage in the war that boils down to revenue sharing.

Perhaps Al Davis has it right. He’s gambling that a new CBA will not be ratified, and that free agency will be postponed until 2012. The effect is that free agents will be given a 10 percent increase over their 2010 base salaries for the “tender without recourse.”

This, of course, is another opportunity for the players to sue. Restraint of trade.


If a CBA is ratified, the rookie wage scale, free agency rules, the salary cap, and the draft will go off without a hitch.

The chances of that happening are roughly zero, despite Roger Goodell’s assurances to the contrary.

Which brings us back to Asamugha. If the Lions have an opportunity to obtain his services, they should do so, at almost any price.

The long-term effect of such a player joining the Lions at such an astronomical price will have a domino effect throughout the league. Consider what the Lions (or any team) would have to pay for Calvin Johnson in 2012.

Food for thought. No matter where Asamugha signs, the tremors will be felt throughout the league for years to come. He might as well be a Lion.

Your thoughts?

Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.

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