Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

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 HereThe 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.

The 38 Eagles who will take the field Monday at training camp

The 38 Eagles who will take the field Monday at training camp

As training camp kicks off Monday morning, 38 Eagles will be in attendance: quarterbacks, rookies and select vets. 

All four quarterbacks will be on the field when practice kicks off at 8:40 a.m., but most of those 38 are rookies. The rest of the team will report to camp on Wednesday, followed by Thursday's full-team practice in the afternoon. 

It's not hard to figure out why some of the select vets are in camp early. Cody Parkey, Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd are all veterans coming off of injuries. 

This is also the first time we will see rookies Isaac Seumalo, Aziz Shittu and Byron Marshall, who were all at rookie camp, but missed OTAs because of the NCAA graduation rule. 

Here's the full list of 38 who will be on the field Monday morning: 

K Cody Parkey
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
QB Sam Bradford
QB Chase Daniel
QB Carson Wentz
WR Hunter Sharp
CB Nolan Carroll
S Nick Perry
RB Wendell Smallwood
S Blake Countess
CB Jalen Mills
RB Cedric O'Neal
CB JaCorey Shepherd
CB C.J. Smith
CB Aaron Grymes
RB Byron Marshall
CB Randall Evans
LB Myke Tavarres
LB Don Cherry
LS John DePalma
LB Quentin Gause
DE Alex McCalister
LB Travis Long
LB Joe Walker
DT Aziz Shittu
C Bruce Johnson
G Dillon Gordon
T Halapoulivaati Vaitai
G Isaac Seumalo
G Malcolm Bunche
DT Connor Wujciak
DT Destiny Vaeao
G Darrell Greene
WR Paul Turner
TE M.J. McFarland
WR Marcus Johnson
WR Cayleb Jones
WR Xavier Rush

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.