What's It Gonna Take to Sign Asomugha?

What's It Gonna Take to Sign Asomugha?

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.

1. Philadelphia. Rumors (and they seem to be more than that) are flying that the Eagles are going to strike quickly and spend big money in free agency. Imagine pairing Asomugha with very good cover man Asante Samuel. It'd be money well-spent, even at a Bradyish $18 million a year.

$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.

>> Monday Morning Quarterback [SI]
>> P. King tabs Eagles as favorites for Asomugha [MtC]
>> Eagles eagerly anticipate start of free agency [Yahoo!]
>> Asomugha not high on Eagles' wish list [CBS]

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday in the season opener (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fadeaway jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guys' first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of [Hakeem] Olajuwon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).