Depending on which report you believe, the Eagles could have traded cornerback Asante Samuel before last season for either a second-round pick or two third-rounders. On Wednesday, the Eagles could only muster prying a seventh-rounder out of the Falcons to complete this inevitable deal.
I don’t agree with some of the reporters who have suggested that the price drop is due to Samuel’s age (31) or contract (it was $21.3M over two seasons). He hasn’t gotten significantly older or more expensive in the last few months. His contract does go up, and he’s now 31. That’s true. But neither Samuel’s salary nor his age are prohibitive factors at this point. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and $10 million is reasonable for a top cornerback.
This is the point where people start to bring up Asante’s flaws as a player: he freelances too much, doesn’t know how to tackle, blows coverages more than you would like. For the most part, you wouldn’t be wrong to make that argument. But Samuel has demonstrated those same deficiencies his entire career. Before he ever arrived in Philly, we knew he couldn’t tackle, couldn’t resist gambling for interceptions -- and you can bet that Detroit and whichever other teams inquired after him in 2011 knew those things as well.
Moreover, there’s little evidence to suggest that Samuel has fallen off since a year ago. His interception rate did drop, which has a lot to do with luck. His targets increased, but so would yours if you went from playing across from Dimitri Patterson to Nnamdi Asomugha. On a per target basis, Samuel was every bit as good in 2011 as he was in 2010 -- and with an utter failure of a defensive coordinator (Juan Castillo) to boot.
What has changed in the last few months is that the Eagles’ leverage in negotiations has evaporated. Having bungled the 2011 trade and alienated Samuel permanently, then installed a defensive coordinator who was completely unprepared to utilize three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, the front office created a buyer’s market for Asante. Everyone knows the team couldn’t afford -- in the books or on the field -- to keep Samuel for another year. He was worth less to the Eagles than anyone else and they had no choice but to get rid of him.
General manager Howie Roseman has largely been hailed as a great deal maker (often as an antidote to poor drafting results), but this whole Samuel situation was terribly handled, and it has and will continue to cost the team.