When the new league year finally begins, the Eagles will aggressively pursue big name free agents. Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, Joe Banner, and even Jeffrey Lurie have told us as much. Just looking at it from a historical standpoint, this front office has not been afraid to plunk down the cash when the right players are available.
But will that approach lead to the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, the number one on most fans' wishlists? Conventional wisdom says the Birds need an experienced cornerback to play opposite Asante Samuel, and the former Oakland Raider is the best option on the open market. However, once the bidding is under way and the price starts rising north—and possibly closing in on $20 million per year—will the powers that be still be willing to back up their talk?
In today's edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback, SI's Peter King listed his favorites to win the Asomugha sweepstakes, and while he pegged the Eagles at the top—ahead of Dallas and Baltimore—it was the money that really raised some eyebrows.
$18 million. For the sake of comparison, Asomugha's previous contract paid him an average of $15 million. Mike Vick's salary after signing the franchise tag will be an estimated $16 million in 2011. Samuel's current deal, outrageous as it was in 2008, pays him slightly less than $10 million per season. And Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, who just last year was made one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL, could earn around $15 million annually.
So $18 million would presumably make Asomugha the highest paid Eagle and defensive player in the league simultaneously, and he'll be 30 years old before the season begins. Will management be willing to meet those kinds of demands?
Another interesting take I derived from this was the impact such a deal would have on Samuel. The Eagles' ball hawk is under contract for three more seasons, but Samuel fancies himself one of best corners in football, so making half the amount of money as the guy starting across the field might cause some acrimony. Some of that money was up front, and as Philly.com's Sheil Kapadia points out, Samuel will only make $5.9M in 2011.
In other words, the Eagles would probably have a year at most before Asante Samuel is lobbying for a new contract.
It all makes us wonder if Asomugha is really in their plans. That's a ton of money, and there is actually a deep crop of corners heading to free agency whenever it opens. Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph, the New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie, Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor, and Washington's Carlos Rogers are among the noteworthy soon-to-be available players.
There is also talk about the Birds going after free agents at other positions as well. Names like Albert Haynesworth, Plaxico Burress, and Reggie Bush have been bandied about all over the place, including a recent piece by Michael Silver for Yahoo! Sports. The Eagles could also use a veteran backup quarterback, perhaps an upgrade at right tackle, and may have some interest in re-signing Stewart Bradley to play strongside linebacker.
Still, Nnamdi Asomugha fills a very specific need in their defense. I had to laugh actually at a report by CBS Sports' Clark Judge, which suggested the Eagles are indifferent over the corner due to the money and because "he's a press cornerback who plays only the right-cornerback position." That's precisely, down to the letter, what they would be looking for though, so it would seem only the money might be the issue between the two.
And we can only suspect the money would be an issue, but in the past, it often hasn't been. The Eagles were notably outbid for Peppers last off-season, but they have signed a number of high-priced talents through the years, such as Samuel and Jason Peters on their roster now. Yet we feel compelled to acknowledge $18 mil could conceivably be a tipping point, especially when they have the opportunity to acquire some other pretty good players.