Eagles Should Keep Asante Samuel

Eagles Should Keep Asante Samuel

They wouldn't... would they? Nah. Even if they wanted to, they
couldn't... could they? The Eagles have already challenged some commonly
held perceptions about how the organization is run with their recent
spending binge. Yet despite going out and turning the notion that the
franchise operates on the cheap on its ear, it's still hard to believe
they actually intend to carry three Pro Bowl cornerbacks into the 2011
season.

It's not even simply a matter of cheap or not.
Conventional wisdom would suggest the club can't keep Nnamdi Asomugha,
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel, sign all of the other
free agents they already did, and also take care of business with their own
guys. With the trade winds kicking up though, it needs to be said that
the Birds can—and absolutely should—keep the trio in tact for a potential Super
Bowl run.

Many people understandably began jumping to conclusions
right away when the Eagles announced the Asomugha signing. "Who's out?"
quickly turned into "What's happening to Samuel?" He would be the most
logical odd man considering the other two had only been acquired in the
previous 48 hours.

Because he is effective
The first reason that could conceivably be a
very big mistake is because Asante Samuel is still one of the best
players in football. In fact, last season was one of the best in his
eight-year career. His seven interceptions were impressive enough, but
that number doesn't quite do him justice. According to Football
Outsiders
, quarterbacks only tested Samuel 36 times in 2010. That means
nearly one in five passes thrown his way were picks.

In fact, by their measurements, Samuel had a better season than Asomugha. And while we're not as familiar with the situation in Oakland, here it was pretty attractive for opposing quarterbacks to throw at Dimitri Patterson's side last season. Simply put, there are not many players in the NFL with better instinct and ability.

Sure,
with the arrival of Asomugha—another shutdown corner who quarterbacks
rarely look at—and Rodgers-Cromartie, the case can be made Samuel is
expendable anyway. That's not entirely untrue. Having said that, the organization
isn't in a position where their hand is being forced.

Because the team can
Looking at
the contract situations for all three, Asomugha obviously comes in as
the top dog. He'll make $10 million in 2011. Samuel comes in at a close
second with a cap figure at $9.3 mil. Finally, Rodgers-Cromartie will
earn just under $1 million. DRC's cap figure is what makes the entire
thing work. Naturally he'll be rewarded with a raise and extension,
likely next season. Coming off a subpar year in Arizona
however, the Eagles aren't necessarily required to move on that now. (Numbers via eaglescap.com)

They can also release Joselio Hanson and free up a couple million there.

Meanwhile,
the Eagles can look to get cap relief from a potential Samuel trade
next off-season, when the All Pro corner might be looking to renegotiate
in the first place. The guaranteed bonus money in his contract is
minimal after this season, and even though his base salary is still
hefty in 2012 and '13, the future will be heavy on Samuel's mind when he
turns 31 in January. At that point, the Eagles could make the exchange,
which in turn would free up the money to re-sign DRC, who will be on the final year of his rookie contract.

And what's
the rush for? While management entertains offers for their Pro Bowl
corner, they shouldn't even consider a swap unless the return on their
investment is outrageous. The primary consideration has to be what will
help the team most this year: high draft picks next April (keeping in
mind that player-for-player trades are somewhat rare), or a stud
ballhawk in their secondary. After all, barring a catastrophic injury,
his value shouldn't plummet much at all between now and March, when they
will inevitably part ways over his contract. In other words, those
picks will be there.

Because it's what's best for him
As for Samuel's alleged unhappiness with the
current situation, we're not sure that has anything to do with
welcoming Asomugha and DRC. His confrontational attitude seemed to be
more of a response toward reports the front office is listening to trade
offers, and not so much the influx of talent in the secondary. If that
is indeed the case, you could gather that Samuel actually wants to stay,
and be a part of this so-called "Dream Team."

After all, there
really is no reason for Samuel to demand a trade, and according to his
agent, he has not done so. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has not
indicated Samuel's role on defense would change, and the team has not
requested he take a paycut or renegotiate. Plus, right now it's just
hype, but Samuel has to realize Philadelphia is his best opportunity to win
another championship this year.

That puts the decision entirely
in the hands of the front office. Maybe the right deal comes along,
something they absolutely can't refuse. We'll evaluate that trade
if/when it happens. With what we know now though, there should be
unanimous support from the fan base for keeping Samuel in midnight
green. The pressure is on this year, and the Eagles shouldn't be taking
any bullets out of the chamber.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.