The Eagles got bilked, fleeced, hustled, swindled, shortchanged, and flimflammed, but reporting the crime won't change the fact that Asante Samuel is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
On Wednesday, the Birds agreed to send their four-time Pro-Bowl cornerback, a potential future Hall of Famer, to a conference rival in exchange for a lowly seventh-round pick. The Inq's Jeff McLane, who earlier broke the news Samuel agreed to a restructured contract with Atlanta, reported the Eagles had a deal in place with the Detroit Lions last August that would have netted second- and third-round picks.
Samuel had been on the trade block ever since the team traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Nnamdi Asomugha.
How We Got Here
The 31-year-old Samuel signed a six-year, $59 million dollar deal with Philadelphia in 2008. He intercepted 25 passes in 61 regular season and playoff games over four seasons -- nearly one every two games -- returning three for touchdowns. Despite having a down year in 2011 production-wise with just three picks, Samuel still charted as one of the best corners in the league according to sites like Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus.
A secondary featuring Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC was surprisingly ineffective though. All three are more comfortable lining up outside, so there was no way to get them all on the field at the same time without having at least one of them play out of position. Plus, the coaching staff wants to utilize more bump and run coverage on receivers, but Asante prefers an off-man style that allows him to sit back and read the quarterback.
His value plummeted in part because the Eagles lost whatever leverage they had when it became painfully obvious they needed to subtract a corner from the equation. Even though Samuel had the best season of the three, Asomugha is entering the second year of a $60-million deal that makes him difficult to move, and Rodgers-Cromartie is five years younger.
However, Samuel's contract was said to be the primary hang-up. He was scheduled to collect $21.4 million in base salary over the final two seasons. As part of the trade, Asante first had to agree to restructure. He'll receive $18.5 over three years from Atlanta -- roughly $3 million less than he was slated to earn over the next two.
To summarize, the Falcons obtain an elite playmaker at cornerback, with an additional year on his contract and a discount rate, in exchange for a low draft pick that has precious little chance of panning out, let alone turning into an All-Pro. The Eagles free up a large chunk of cap space, and simplify their depth chart.
How Bad Is the Damage?
While Samuel may be a textbook example of addition by subtraction, the Eagles are clearly getting robbed.
To some extent, they backed themselves against a wall. It would appear there really is no way for Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC to co-exist. Rodgers-Cromartie can also become a free agent next season, and the front office needs to get a better look at him before they decide whether or not he'll be part of their long-term plans. He was a major piece in the Kevin Kolb trade last summer.
Perhaps it would have been wise to hold on to Samuel for now anyway. While there is plenty the Eagles can do with the nearly $10 million they freed up -- extend LeSean McCoy, for instance -- they were by no means up against the cap. With 10 selections now in this year's draft, they weren't exactly hurting for the pick either. Had they held on to Samuel, maybe they could have got more out of a team that missed out on a corner in the draft, or even wait for a team to suffer a serious injury during training camp.
Because no matter how you slice it, management messed up by giving away a great player for next to nothing. Don't get me wrong, I thought a secondary with Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC would be practically impenetrable, too. The Eagles should have trusted their instincts last summer though, and unloaded Asante while the getting was good. Instead, they've been made to look like fools.
We know we'll being seeing Asante Samuel again when the Eagles host the Falcons in Week 8. We'll just have to hope we won't see him again somewhere down the road, maybe in January.