After months of speculation, Asante Samuel could be wearing a new uniform in a matter of days.
CSN's Derrick Gunn reports the Eagles are working on a trade that would send the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a conditional third-round pick in 2013. The buzz originated from Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com on Wednesday morning, though Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean writes today that a swap is not imminent.
Whether it is or not, this is just the latest chapter in a story that has but one logical conclusion: Samuel playing football elsewhere in 2012.
Why Are The Eagles Trying to Trade Samuel Again?
The motivation is at least partially financial. Samuel earns $9.4 million this year, $11.4 in '13, and looming somewhere in the background is a new contract request. The organization has even more money tied up in Nnamdi Asomugha, plus Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Fit has also managed to become a hot-button issue. Samuel strongly prefers playing left corner, but Asomugha and DRC are both better on the outside as well, and we all saw the result of moving those two around to accommodate the other. Meanwhile, coaches have indicated they would like their corners to press -- Asante Samuel don't press.
As cliche as it is to say, this situation may be the very definition of addition by subtraction.
Why Not Trade Nnamdi or DRC?
One thing the trade will not be based on is performance. Despite the reduced interception total in 2011 (4), not only was Samuel the best Eagles cornerback -- by some measures, he was one of the best in the league. For the second consecutive season, Samuel ranked at or near the top in several of the measures favored by the advanced metrics sites like Football Outsiders.
He may have a bad rep in Philly for his aversion to tackling, and to a lesser extent, the perception he is a risk taker, but Samuel can still be considered an elite NFL corner. He had seven picks a year ago, nine in 2010.
It's mathematics though. The remainder of Samuel's contract is not guaranteed; plenty of Asomugha's is. Even if the front office would rather bet on Asante, moving Nnamdi's contract is not feasible, particularly after the subpar season he had. As for Rodgers-Cromartie, he's five years younger than Samuel. When you take into account the question of fit, not to mention the disgruntled-player factor, Samuel is the logical odd man out.
Is Anyone Interested?
Funny, as early as a few days ago, some folks were worried Samuel might be difficult to move because his salary is too high. Funny, for instance, because the Cowboys recently signed Brandon Carr to a five-year deal worth the rough equivalent of $10 million per.
Carr is a nice player. He's young, has good size, ability. He also set a career-high with four interceptions last season. Nobody is confusing his contribution through four seasons with what Asante Samuel does for a defense. And it just so happens, if money is an issue, Samuel's camp reportedly are willing to restructure. Of course, that should not come as so much of a surprise -- restructuring likely means more years.
Of course teams have interest. According to the Inq's Jeff McLane, the Eagles very nearly had a deal with the Detroit Lions last summer. Not much has changed in eight months.
What Is He Worth?
The report states the Titans would send a conditional third-round pick, which sounds about right. Samuel's play probably warrants a bit more, maybe a second, or an additional pick, but his contract and age (31) hurt his value.
McLane's previous report stated last summer's failed trade with the Lions would have sent Samuel to Detroit for two second-day draft picks, but the deal fell apart for "reasons other than draft compensation."
The DeMeco Ryans trade is actually a pretty close template for what to expect. The Eagles sent a fourth-round pick and exchanged thirds for Ryans, a two-time Pro Bowler with a sizable contract. Ryans's value is probably slightly less due to his coming off a serious injury and the position he plays, but similarly, opposing general managers know the Birds need to move Samuel, and that before the draft will be the best time to do it.
Will He Be Missed?
I, for one, always liked what Asante Samuel brings to the table. He's great at what he does, which is daring quarterbacks to throw to his side of the field, then making them pay for their sin. He's also better than advertised in the locker room, and rarely gets beat for big plays.
Yet there is no doubt he's become a distraction while being publicly critical of the front office, and the issue of finding a place for all three of their Pro-Bowl corners to play is not going away. Samuel can still bring it, maybe better than Asomugha or Rodgers-Comartie, but it's not that simple.
Unless Nnamdi returns to shutdown form in 2012, or DRC can replace the high volume of interceptions, the Eagles won't be able to exactly replicate having Samuel on the field. So, yes, they will miss having one of the best corners in the game from that respect. However, those guys are still good in their own right, and the Birds have young players who deserve their shot. Sure they'll miss Asante, but the team is dead set on moving on, with good reason.