The Eagles were at one time thought to have an embarrassment
of riches at the cornerback position, so much so they traded four-time Pro
Bowler Asante Samuel for a seventh-round pick last offseason. Less than a year removed
from that laughable exchange, their cornerbacks are just plain embarrassing.
Nnamdi Asomugha arrived in Philadelphia during the summer of
2011 with a reputation for being one of the premier cover corners in the game,
but he often appeared confused and misused in whatever defense the Eagles
utilized, and thus was frequently abused by opposing wide receivers. Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie came over from Arizona in the Kevin Kolb deal around the same
time Asomugha signed on, forcing DRC to the inside his first season here, which
was an abject failure to say the least – he wasn’t worlds better back home on
the outside in ’12, either.
The times, they are a changing.
Rodgers-Cromartie is almost certain to hit free agency when
the curtain is drawn on March 13. Reports indicate the Eagles will decline to
use the franchise tag on the soon-to-be 27 year old, and he hasn’t given the
front office much reason to negotiate an expensive, long-term extension. They
could theoretically re-sign DRC if the market is soft, but the fact that the organization
appears to be leaving him out in the open might speak volumes about their
Asomugha on the other hand is under contract through 2015,
but there is no way the Eagles are bringing him back at his current salary, a
whopping $15 million in ’13. There is a cap hit of $4 million if he’s released,
but given how dreadful Nnamdi has been, that figure is hardly prohibitive. Turning
32 in July, his best days seemingly behind him, Asomugha’s best play could be
to renegotiate, although there is little to suggest one way or the other the
Eagles care to.
One thing is for certain: they can’t both return. Philadelphia
had one of the NFL’s worst secondaries last season, even though they surprisingly
were a top-10 unit in yards surrendered. However, opposing quarterbacks posted
the second-highest passer rating against the Eagles (99.6), and no defense allowed
more touchdown passes (33) while only two claimed fewer interceptions (8).
The problem is the Birds haven’t exactly demonstrated they
possess tremendous depth at the position. Brandon Boykin had a promising rookie
season, but he played largely in the slot where due to his diminutive stature
(5-9, 182) many believe the fourth-round pick is best suited. Curtis Marsh –
taken in the third round of the ’11 draft – has the size (6-1, 197) and
athleticism, but is still incredibly raw with just 75 snaps through two
seasons. Brandon Hughes doesn’t stand out in any way, shape, or form.
Obviously the personnel at cornerback is going to be a
priority this offseason, but there will be limitations on the front office as
well. There simply may be too many other needs across the board to replace both
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie in one offseason, unless Chip Kelly is counting
on somebody from the current roster to step up.
Should they attempt move on from both, there are actually a
fair amount of quality, mid-level starters that will be available in free
agency. The draft would be the obvious place to address the problem, but no way
Howie Roseman is coming away with two who can start right away, and even one
that is ready from day one might be a stretch.
That Asmougha hasn’t been released already could be telling,
or it may just mean the Eagles are only now getting to him after spending a lot
of time settling their quarterback situation. This is the time for clubs to cut
veterans for cap reasons though, and for now he’s still around.
Nnamdi probably has at least a better chance of staying than
DRC does. There is no denying Rodgers-Cromartie has far greater upside, plus
the pure talent to play at an elite level as evidenced by the former 16th
overall pick’s selection to the Pro Bowl in ’09.
Yet if you had to choose between the two, Asomugha probably
makes more sense provided they can renegotiate his deal. For one thing, DRC is will
be out to maximize his earnings – money and more importantly years. From an
on-the-field standpoint, the difference between the two is while Asomugha has
struggled mightily to get the job done, whenever DRC falters he’s typically been
accused of giving lackluster effort.
The Eagles went from the instantly recognizable veteran duo
of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, to growing up with young guns Lito Sheppard
and Sheldon Brown, and on to the addition of the brash ballhawk Samuel without
missing a beat. Asante even played at a high level with the combination of
Ellis Hobbs and Dimitri Patterson across from him for one year.
The Nnamdi-DRC duo was a far cry from what we became used to
during the Andy Reid era to say the least. Unfortunately, we may not be out of
the woods quite yet.
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