The long-awaited Asante Samuel trade is done. Only time will tell whether the Eagles are making the right decision unloading the record-setting four-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
The Eagles, who have been shopping Samuel since last summer, finally completed their long-awaited move Wednesday afternoon by shipping Samuel to the Atlanta Falcons.
All the Eagles got in return was a seventh-round pick.
We just improved our team today, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. Asante Samuel is a good football player, and you can never have enough good players on your team. Our game has become more of a passing game, and you have to have the players who can neutralize how offenses are trying to attack you.
Earlier in the day, the Falcons and Samuel agreed on a contract restructure that added a year to Samuels deal and reduced his annual salary. NFL Network reported that the deal is worth 18.5 million over three years, which reduces Samuels pay from 21.3 million over the next two years.
Samuel is the second player with at least four Pro Bowls on his resume that the Eagles have traded in the last 25 months. In April 2010, they shipped six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. Theyre the only players with that many Pro Bowls the Eagles have traded since they shipped future Hall of Famer Bob Brown to the Rams after the 1968 season.
We wish Asante Samuel all the best as he heads into the next chapter of his career in Atlanta, head coach Andy Reid said in a prepared statement. He has been a very productive member of the Eagles for the past four years and we appreciate all that he has done for our organization.
We obviously feel good about our cornerback situation moving forward with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as our starters. Those two played very well together in the latter part of the season and we anticipate that will continue as we head into the 2012 season.
Samuel, 31, had 25 interceptions in 61 games with the Eagles, including the playoffs. In nine years with the Patriots and Eagles, he has 51 interceptions and has returned nine of them for touchdowns. Samuels seven postseason interceptions are seventh-most in NFL history, and his four TD returns are an NFL record.
But the Eagles had two main reasons for unloading Samuel.
First, he was due 9.9 million this year and 11.4 million next year, with cap numbers of 10 million and 11.5 million. The Eagles have plenty of cap space but also will need to spend a ton of money in the not-too-distant future on Pro Bowl tailback LeSean McCoy, who has one year left on his deal, and Jeremy Maclin, whose contract is up after 2013.
Second, they dont believe his style of playing cornerback playing off the receiver, jumping routes, going for big plays works with the way the Eagles want to play defense.
Samuel has also missed considerable time with injuries the last two seasons, five games in 2010 and two games last year, when he had just three interceptions and for the first time since 2006 was not picked to the Pro Bowl team.
The trade was considered inevitable since the Eagles acquired two Pro Bowl cornerbacks a day apart last summer, getting Rodgers-Cromartie as part of the Kevin Kolb trade on July 28 and then signing three-time Pro Bowl selection Asomugha to a five-year, 60 million on July 29.
The secondary was in shambles last year, as DRC was forced to play out of position in the slot, Asomugha was put in several different spots he had never played during his eight years in Oakland.
Samuel retained his left corner spot but was clearly agitated by all the trade talk. At Lehigh, when head coach Reid conceded that the team was listening to offers from Samuel lashed out at management, saying: If theyre tired of my big-playmaking ability, maybe theyll ship me out. I want to be where Im wanted. If Im wanted here, then here. If Im not appreciated here, then life goes on, and I move on.
Then, in October, after CSNPhilly.com reported that the Eagles were still shopping Samuel as the NFLs trade deadline approached, Samuel lashed out again, saying that General Manager Howie Roseman and team president Joe Banner were upstairs playing fantasy football with the owners money.
The trade talk clearly bothered Samuel: That sucks, doesnt it? he said the same day. Each trade deadline for your name to be flying around and youre supposed to be the leader of this team?
Despite everything, Samuel has been attending supervised workouts at the NovaCare Complex, and last week said he didnt want to leave the Eagles.
Of course, I love it here, he said. This is my home. I've never been to a place that I love more than Philadelphia. So its up to management. I want to be here. Ive always voiced that opinion. Its up to them.
In addition to Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, the Eagles also four other corners on the roster 2011 third-round pick Curtis Marsh, veteran nickel Joselio Hanson, one-time fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley and street free agent pickup Brandon Hughes on the roster.
The Falcons ranked 20th in the NFL in pass defense last year and 21st in passing touchdowns allowed. Samuel will return to Philadelphia on Oct. 28, when the Falcons face the Eagles at the Linc.
We are pleased to be able to add a player of Asantes caliber to our roster, Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said. Asante has established himself as a very productive player during his career. He is a proven player in this league and we feel that this move upgrades the talent of our roster and improves our football team.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org