Jul 302011

Eagles CB Asante SamuelWith Asomugha and DRC brought in, is Asante Samuel on the trade block?

With the Eagles, the fun actually got going on Thursday when the team consummated the long rumored signing of defensive end Jason Babin and the Kevin Kolb-to-the-Cardinals trade, acquiring a young cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who is just a slight upgrade over the now-thankfully departed Dimtri Patterson.  That is, if slight is measured as the size of Mike Patterson’s backside.  The fact that they also got a second-round pick makes the deal even sweeter.

Then out of nowhere, the Eagles pulled a Phillies/Cliff Lee-mystery team style sniper play, picking up Nnamdi Asomugha when most believed the talk about the Eagles pursuing him was no more than idle speculation and message board dreaming.  But like that beautiful December night, the Eagles stunned everyone, signing Asomugha to a 5-year, $60 million contract with $25 million guaranteed.  Unreal.

Of course, the immediate speculation becomes what to do with Asante Samuel, though it’s pretty damn fun to think the Eagles have a Phillies-style rotation in their secondary.  And while it would be nice to see them so overloaded at corner after the utter putridity they threw out there last season, trading Asante could make sense.

With the way the defense is changing — a new approach to line play using the “Wide 9” thanks to Jim Washburn, a likely more Cover 2 look overall based on Juan Castillo’s stated desire to emulate the Bears, and the addition of true man-cover corners in Asomugha and DRC — it seems Asante may be the odd man out.  He can’t tackle and he doesn’t play man, which are both liabilities that have caused problems in the recent past.  While he’s a playmaker with an incredible ability to close on the ball, Samuel has been burned by laying back and guessing wrong or by hanging back in a zone while a team bubble screens him to death.  That’s what happened with Dallas at the end of the 2009 season, and Andy Reid did the usually unthinkable and called Samuel out publicly in the spring of 2010, saying specifically that Samuel needs to be better.

Samuel had a solid 2010 season, but with his skills not necessarily suited for what the Eagles want to do and him now being on the wrong side of 30 it may make sense for the Eagles to move him, assuming of course they can acquire an impact player.  Trading Samuel for a draft pick would make no sense, not by itself, but picking up a starting caliber linebacker may not be a bad move.  It’s hard to imagine they enter the season with what they have now at the position.  I think everyone wants Casey Matthews to succeed but if he’s the opening day middle linebacker it’s not going to be easy to watch, especially with a barely-average rotation of non-impact defensive tackles in front of him.

To finish their day, the Eagles also finalized a contract with Vince Young to back up Mike Vick.  The deal could be worth up to $5.5 million.  Young is a true headcase, to the point where he was literally on suicide watch in Tennessee, but he’s also very talented.  With the right coaching and guidance he could prove to be a steal, albeit a well-paid for a backup one.

With the NFL’s new rule allowing for the third quarterback to be active on game day without sacrificing another spot, it opens up the playbook to allow for some Vick-style subbing in the wildcat.  This will not only allow the Eagles to take advantage of Young’s skills, it will take Vick off the field, avoiding wear and tear on a quarterback who is almost definitely going to get hurt at some point.

If Young can keep his head straight it’s a great signing.  If not, and Vick gets hurt, Mike Kafka better be able to live up to all the high praise already heaped on him or it’s going to be 2005-level ugly.

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