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.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.