A Defensive End Preview

Sheil Kapadia:

Jenkins has been getting some reps at defensive end with Jason Babin out. We didn’t see him outside much last year, although Jenkins played defensive end while in a 3-4 with the Packers.

“I just gotta get back used to it,” he said. “My hand work is a little off, especially on the left side. When I did play D-End in the past, I was used to being on the right side, so when I’m on the left side, I gotta get used to the hands, vertical steps and all that stuff.”

I’m a fan of whatever looks Jim Washburn wants to throw at offenses, but with Trent Cole also out with swelling in his shoulder, now seems like the perfect time to get lots of looks at the quartet of Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Darryl Tapp, and Philip Hunt. You’re not going to be able to keep all four of those guys.

Seeing Cole and Babin both dealing with injuries is also a worthy reminder that they’re not youngsters anymore. They were tremendous pass rushers last year, but a decline could be coming.

UPDATE: Graham is running with the ones, and Jenkins and Tapp are rotating on the other side.

Eagles O-Line: Not That Young

Jimmy Kemspki provides us with a great master list of offensive line ages around the NFL:

Philly has the 13th oldest OL in the league, but their situation is a little odd, in that 4/5 of their line has very low mileage.  Todd Herremans has 92 career regular season starts.  The next highest total?  Evan Mathis, with 37, or a little more than two full seasons worth of games.

This is one of those moments when you remember that even though the Eagles will start two sophomores in the interior line, Danny Watkins is only six months younger than 28-year-old tackle Demetress Bell.

Bungling the Asante Trade From Start to Finish

Depending on which report you believe, the Eagles could have traded Asante Samuel before last season for either a second round pick or two third rounders. Now the Eagles look like they will have to get lucky just to pull out a fourth round pick in this inevitable deal.

What happened?

I don’t agree with some of the reporters who have suggested that the price drop is due to Samuel’s age or contract. He hasn’t gotten significantly older or more expensive in the last few months. His contract does go up, and he’s now 31. That’s true. But neither Samuel’s salary nor his age are prohibitive factors at this point. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and $10 million is reasonable for a top cornerback.

This is the point where people start to bring up Asante’s flaws as a player: he freelances too much, doesn’t know how to tackle, blows coverages more than you would like. For the most part, you wouldn’t be wrong to make that argument. But Samuel has demonstrated those same deficiencies his entire career. Before he ever arrived in Philly, we knew he couldn’t tackle, couldn’t resist gambling for interceptions — and you can bet that Detroit and whichever other teams inquired after him in 2011 knew those things as well.

Moreover, there’s little evidence to suggest that Samuel has fallen off since a year ago. His interception rate did drop, which has a lot to do with luck. His targets increased, but so would yours if you went from playing across from Dimitri Patterson to Nnamdi Asomugha. On a per target basis, Samuel was every bit as good in 2011 as he was in 2010 — and with an utter failure of a defensive coordinator to boot.

What has changed in the last few months is that the Eagles’ leverage in negotiations has evaporated. Having bungled the 2011 trade and alienated Samuel permanently, then installed a defensive coordinator who was completely unprepared to utilize three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, the front office created a buyer’s market for Asante. Everyone knows the team can’t afford, in the books or on the field, to keep Samuel for another year. He’s worth less to the Eagles than anyone else and they have no choice but to get rid of him.

Howie Roseman has largely been hailed as a great deal maker (often as an antidote to poor drafting results), but this whole Samuel situation was terribly handled, and it has and will continue to cost the team.

Inside Trent Cole's Contract Extension

Brian McIntyre has the details of Trent Cole’s contract. Here is the basic breakdown:

2012: $8 million signing bonus, plus original $3 million salary now guaranteed.
2013: Original $3.5 million salary now guaranteed.
2014: New $5 million salary (plus $500,000 $ack$-based bonus).
2015: New $10 million salary.
2016: New $11 million salary.
2017: New $14 million salary.

Cole turns 30 this year, which should give you a sense of which years are more or less fake money. To my eyes, the last three years all look unlikely. The Eagles gave Cole a lot of security by guaranteeing the final two years of his old contract and handing him a signing bonus on top of it. The 2014 additional year also looks attainable and very reasonably priced. After that, I don’t see the Eagles paying $10 million or more per year for a 33-year-old and up.

Still, don’t let that detract from what the deal really means. It’s not intended to purchase many more years of performance, but rather to serve as a thank you gift, a reward for Cole’s quiet excellence over the last few years. And in many ways, that’s more important.

RG3 to Philly? It’s Pretty Crazy

Robert Griffin III Eagles

Heisman-winning quarterback and draft analyst man-crush Robert Griffin III met with the Eagles at the NFL Combine late last week, sparking a mini-resurgence of speculation (read: hope) that by some twist of fate RG3 could be coming to Philadelphia.

Jimmy Kempsi wrote, “it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see the Eagles make some sort of blockbuster trade to move up to 2 to get him.” He goes on to make some good points: Michael Vick will turn 32 before the season starts, his contract isn’t really for the full six years, and the cost of paying a first round quarterback isn’t prohibitive any more. Despite those reasons, there are still major barriers to bringing Griffin to the Eagles.

Let’s start with the fact that the Eagles are completely outgunned in trade negotiations. All indications are that the Rams are looking to sell out of the second overall selection. Do you know what it would take for the Eagles to even get into the conversation for that pick? According to the draft value chart, giving up the Eagles 2012 1st, two 2nd, 3rd, and 2013 1st round picks still leaves the team coming up slightly short.

For comparison, let’s take two of the teams cited most often in trade rumors: the Browns and the Redskins. Cleveland has the 4th and 22nd overall picks. Just those two selections are already worth more than the massive Eagles bounty described above. Former Eagles GM Tom Heckert definitely has the inside track on Griffin. Washington, meanwhile, could match Philly’s offer with just their 1st and 2nd round picks this year and 1st rounder next year.

You can draw comparisons with Vick today and Donovan McNabb in 2007, the year the Eagles drafted Kevin Kolb, but the cost is so much more prohibitive for Griffin. Using an early second round pick when you already have a starting quarterback is questionable, forfeiting almost your entire draft is prohibitive.

And that brings up the second major reason to shoot down any Griffin ideas: the opportunity cost is far too high. Giving up that many high picks would mean ignoring needs at a bunch of positions, including linebacker, defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver. Given the general lack of young talent, especially on defense, the Eagles cannot afford to waste the opportunity to finally get a good, full draft.

Drafting Griffin, despite these concerns, would be writing the next year or two off. The Eagles front office would be admitting to the fans and — more importantly — a veteran group of players that they can’t win in 2012. They would be telling Michael Vick, who everyone hopes will work to improve himself this offseason, that he’s not really their franchise player. That could be a disaster.

What it comes down to is that the timing is off. Tommy Lawlor called the situation “awkward,” but it’s more than that. 2012 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for more than just Andy Reid. Vick needs to get back to his 2010 form. DeSean Jackson, if he even accepts the franchise tag, could be gone after 2012. Veterans like Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, and Trent Cole may only have a year or two of high-level play left, and poor drafting has left the cupboard bare behind them.

Next year should answer a lot of questions about this team and the way it’s constructed. The Eagles could rebound and make a playoff run, in which case you will want a strong crop of young players in place to fill in the holes and keep up the momentum. Alternatively, if the Eagles flop there will be a NovaCare house cleaning like we haven’t seen since 1999. In that case, the team will be in a natural position to draft a new franchise quarterback and rebuild around him going forward.

Watching RG3 highlights is intoxicating, and I would love it if he ended up with the Eagles. But it’s not going to happen. Let’s just make that clear.

Photo from Getty.

The Case Against Re-signing Evan Mathis

Evan Mathis Eagles

Due to his Twitter and Reddit participation, Evan Mathis has become something of a unifying force for fan goodwill on the Internet. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s anything Eagles fans online agree about more than that Mathis must be retained.

At the risk of setting off a mini-revolt from those legions of supporters, I wonder if the enthusiasm has gotten a bit out of control. Is Mathis really as valuable as everyone says? There’s at least circumstantial evidence that points in the opposite direction.

First, we should remember that only a year ago, Mathis was completely unknown. With the Panthers and Bengals from 2007 to 2010, he started only seven games. He wasn’t a highly-valued free agent, just a veteran journeyman, and the Eagles signed him at the end of August last season largely because of Danny Watkins’s surprising holdout. If a bunch of options at right tackle, like Ryan Harris and Winston Justice, hadn’t failed so miserably, Mathis might not even have been promoted to the starting lineup.

Now, none of that on its own is damning. Players rise and fall over the course of their careers. Mathis is a good fit for Howard Mudd’s system, and his rapid offseason body change may have contributed to his revitalized prospects. Still, we must wonder whether a career year at age 30 is really indicative of future top performance.

The other question, for which I don’t have any conclusive answer, remains: was Mathis as good last year as many people thought? I’m not trying to take anything away from what was clearly a solid season. Mathis provided stability to an offensive line that desperately needed it and had good results despite sharing the middle with two rookies.

But at the same time, former NFL linemen have said that left guard is one of the easier line positions. Mathis manned that side with Jason Peters, a truly dominant force, and yet runs to the left tackle netted the third-worst mark in the league, according to Football Outsiders. When Todd Herremans lined up in that spot, directional rushing to the left was alwasy a major strength. In 2011 it became a mixed bag.

Furthermore, Mathis just never passed the eye test that a supposedly top-five-type guard might. He gave up few negative plays, but I also never found myself saying “wow” after one of his highlights. With Todd Herremans and Shawn Andrews in recent years, the Eagles have had guys on the interior that could lay claim to the “dominant” descriptor. As solid as Mathis was, to my eyes he was never that.

All of this is not to say the team absolutely shouldn’t resign Mathis. I’m actually in favor of that move in theory. But if he has other offers for significant money, would the Eagles really be wise to get into a bidding war for his services? I think not.

Photo from Getty.

New Contracts for DeSean, LeSean Coming Soon?

LeSean McCoy

There’s renewed optimism for a DeSean Jackson contract extension, at least according to Jeff McLane.

"Sources close to Jackson" told the Inquirer reporter that negotiations with the team have picked up recently. Jackson also told reporters yesterday: "Without trying to say too much, I think things will work out good here. We’re after the bye week now, so there’s a lot more time for things to get done."

I already speculated on Jackson’s eventual contract here, and the only thing I’d change is probably revise down the total money from $60 million to closer to $50-$55 million over six seasons (given new information about Santonio Holmes’s contract). If the Eagles want to avoid a franchise tag-induced holdout next year, the time is now for an extension.

But even if that deal is coming down the pipe soon, another one looms on the horizon for LeSean McCoy. McCoy has proven this year that he’s capable of performing among the best running backs in the NFL and his contract is up after 2012. While the Eagles offense isn’t as dependent on McCoy as it once was on Brian Westbrook, they need to lock him up long term.

Here are some of the more recent contracts given out to top backs:

2011- Chris Johnson (25): 6 years, $55 million, $30 million guaranteed
2011- Adrian Peterson (26): 7 years, $96 million, $36 million guaranteed
2011- Frank Gore (28): 4 years, $26 million, $14 million guaranteed
2011- DeAngelo Williams (28): 5 years, $43 million, $21 million guaranteed
2010- Jamaal Charles (24): 6 years, $28 million, $10 million guaranteed
2009- Maurice Jones-Drew (24): 5 years, $31 million, $18 million guaranteed
2008- Steven Jackson (25): 6 years, $45 million, $21 million guaranteed
2008- Michael Turner (26): 6 years, $35 million, $15 million guaranteed

There are a lot of different situations represented here, but as with the wide receivers, we can at least determine a general ballpark for McCoy’s negotiations.

Let’s start at the top. Johnson and Peterson got otherworldly contracts that serve as nothing but the upper bound for McCoy’s talks. There’s no more chance of LeSean seeing $9 million per year or close to $30 million guaranteed than there is of DeSean sniffing Larry Fitzgerald’s $130 million deal. McCoy will probably have trouble even besting the per year contract value of Gore or Williams, since they have more years and more production to bank on.

The closest analogue to McCoy in production and age is probably Charles, whose $28 million deal looked like a bargain before he tore his ACL. If McCoy wants to wait this out and get closer to free agency, his play might continue to push his value northward. But, as Charles demonstrated this year, a running back’s career is always in danger. If LeSean can get a reasonable six year, $32 million contract with $14 million guaranteed, he should probably jump on it.

Photo from Getty.

The Sad Decline of Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb Vikings

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about Donovan McNabb.

Take a gander at the chart below. It’s an updated variant on the graphs I put together back before McNabb was traded to the Redskins.

image

Yuck. The last two years have not been kind to McNabb. Both in Washington last year and with the Vikings this year, he’s scored solidly at the bottom of NFL quarterbacks.

You can read the graph two different ways, although neither are positive for Donovan.

First, you can just plot a steady decline in performance since 2006. In that season he put up numbers akin to the Super Bowl year. Afterward, even through Brian Westbrook’s masterful season of 2007 and the emergence of the young guns in 2008 and 2009, McNabb could never again match those peak years.

Before he was traded there were warning signs of his decline. 2009 saw his lowest DVOA performance since 2002 and his lowest EPA since 2005. Perhaps that trend would have continued in Philadelphia.

The second understanding of the graph comes instead from the sharp dropoff in 2010. From 2007-2009 McNabb largely hovered just above average, as the 10th- to 15th-best quarterback in the league. As soon as he started in Washington, however, he plummeted to 25th-best. Every notable stat fell.

There is no doubt that the difference is large between the Eagles offense and those in Washington and Minnesota. That’s a potential excuse for McNabb, if you’re looking for one. If he came back and started with the Eagles his numbers would probably look better. But the fact that he couldn’t elevate those teams and perform at least close to he did in Philadelphia doesn’t lend to any argument in his favor. Maybe Andy Reid was propping him up.

Or maybe it’s just age catching up to McNabb. 35 is old for an NFL player. This year only Tom Brady, Matt Hasselbeck, and Kerry Collins are seeing significant playing time among quarterbacks over age 32. Since he came into the league, McNabb has gained about 20 lbs and has lost his trademark speed.

No matter the reason, it’s sad to watch.

Photo from Getty.

Eagles Front Office Outsmarted Everyone Else

image It’s not easy to explain the free agent binge the Eagles have embarked on over the last week. People have tried, of course, but I can’t help but find most of their explanations lacking.

Donovan McNabb’s resentful commentary, as told to Clark Judge, certainly isn’t right. He whined, “You’re seeing Andy taking that chance. It’s not just taking that chance on one guy. They’re taking a chance on a bunch of guys. And they’re spending money. That’s amazing.”

It’s not as easy as saying that Reid and company have changed up, become more aggressive, more willing to spend, or more risky overall. The Eagles front office has never hesitated to go after the best free agents, signing guys like Jevon Kearse, Jon Runyan, and Asante Samuel. While they’ve been prudent with their money, that’s never been a big restraint. And, considering all but the Nnamdi Asomugha deal can be opted out of after a year, they’ve certainly hedged against risk.

imageI look at the list of free agents additions at right and I don’t see a big shift in philosophy. Some of the guys are older, but they’re top players still in their prime, not fading former stars. And, to reiterate, they haven’t let themselves get too risky with the deals.

Plus, the veteran acquisitions hide the fact that the rest of the Eagles lineup is still very young. A month back I pointed out that the team was poised to have Michael Vick potentially be the oldest Eagle in 2011. That’s unlikely now, but the overall point remains. This team is still young — even after adding a few 30-year-old veterans — and the bounty of 2012 draft picks beckons.

So what has changed? It’s not a willingness to spend or accept risk. It wasn’t aggressiveness that won the free agency period for the Eagles. Nor was it some fateful passing text messages in the night.

It was brains.

Read Jonathan Tamari’s Inquirer story about the Eagles preparation for the end of the lockout and free agency and tell me that the front office’s “blueprint” didn’t run circles around the rest of the league.

Carolina, for example, jumped into free agency like a chicken with its head cut off, throwing huge signing bonuses at every player who threatened to leave. Washington signed so many washed up veteran wide receivers that one backed out of his commitment. The Jets and Cowboys spent days pursuing Asomugha and came up empty.

Meanwhile, during the same window, the Eagles front office signed all their draft picks, picked a bunch of undrafted rookies, traded Kevin Kolb at high market value to the only team who was really interested, signed two Pro Bowl defensive linemen, snatched up the single best free agent with a surprisingly low deal before anyone knew they were even bidding, and then plugged cheap, proven contributors into the remaining holes with cap room to spare.

It makes sense. During the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have always been best at pregame preparation rather than live adjustments. And what was the lockout, ultimately, but an extra long chance to do nothing but plan, prepare, and scheme for the first days back?

Essentially, the Eagles just ran the best first 15 scripted plays they’ve ever called. The outcome of the whole game remains far from decided, but they now have a tremendous head start.

Photo from Getty.

Could Michael Vick be the Oldest Eagle in 2011?

Michael Vick NFL Philadelphia Eagles Age

It’s easy to forget or to gloss over how young this Eagles team is. But there’s a fair chance that Michael Vick could be the oldest position player, if not oldest player on the whole team.

Vick turned 31 earlier this month. That’s not particularly old for a quarterback. But there aren’t more than a handful of players on the Eagles roster right now who are older. In fact, there are only four.

David Akers, 36, is as good as gone. Drafting Alex Henery in the fourth round of the draft basically assures that.

Juqua Parker, 33, certainly doesn’t have a guaranteed roster spot. He wasn’t looking any younger at the end of the season, and if a few of the rest of the muddle of defensive ends step up, he could easily be gone.

Ditto for Jamaal Jackson, 31, who’s coming off of two consecutive season-ending injuries. With plenty of young blood behind him, I could easily see Jackson being one of the older casualties.

The player who’s most likely to still be around is also the oldest: punter Sav Rocca, 37. The Eagles at least threw a tender at him, but he’s never been much better than average, so they could easily flip both kicking specialists in one offseason. I doubt many fans would complain about that.

The Eagles have always been focused on youth, but they’ve never — as far as I remember — been so close to such a young team. To have the oldest player be only 31 years old would be quite a statement, and it’s not all that unlikely.

Photo from Getty.

Premature to Discuss the End of Vick’s Career

Michael Vick Philadelphia Eagles Career End

Yesterday, Tommy Lawlor wrote that Michael Vick is the “short term guy” at quarterback. He wasn’t making an extensive argument on the subject and I don’t want to mischaracterize his actual point. But I think there’s an interesting question raised there: how long do we expect Michael Vick to be the Eagles quarterback?

Everyone expects that as soon as possible the team will offer Vick a new contract extension. I’m on record saying that they may already have the terms mostly settled. But how long will that contract be? Should the Eagles be looking for a new long term prospect already? Vick will turn 31 this month, after all.

To put it bluntly, I think it’s premature to suggest that Vick is anywhere particularly close to the end of his time in Philadelphia. Look at the career of his predecessor, Donovan McNabb. The Eagles signed McNabb to a contract that would pay him through age 34. They decided to trade him before that final season began, but I don’t think that was because the front office thought he was over-the-hill. Maybe on the downside of his career — but not washed up yet.

If we assume that the Eagles have the same timeline envisioned for Vick, he’s due for at least a three year extension through 2014. For starters, any player that you plan on counting on until 2014 is a long term guy. Short term is a year or two, at least in my book. Once you get to three or four football seasons out, that’s the equivalent of making predictions about 2050.

And yet I think the extension may be for even longer than three years. I actually expect something in the four to five year range. Tom Brady signed an extension for four years at age 33. The Redskins gave 34 year-old McNabb a deal for five years. That’s the going rate. Plus, who’s to say that Vick — with his extra mobility and two years of rest while in jail — isn’t cut out for playing until at least as long as those more stationary quarterbacks?

After Andy Reid surprised McNabb and the rest of the NFL by grabbing Kevin Kolb in 2007, fans are always going to expect that to happen again. But Vick isn’t a short term option. He should be in Philly a long time.

Photo by Getty.

Old Man Danny Watkins is Eagles 1st Round Pick

Danny Watkins Roger Goodell Eagles 1st Round Pick 2011

Danny Watkins, Eagles number one pick. Savior to the woeful right guard spot. But at 26 years old (27 in November), Watkins is one of the oldest players to be selected in the first round ever.

Outside of his age, this looks like a solid pick by the Eagles. As I’ve written on multiple occasions, they needed help along the offensive line more than anywhere outside of perhaps cornerback. And after only four years of playing football, Watkins already has shown the talent to be a first round selection. Certainly there is a lot of potential for offensive line gurus Andy Reid and Howard Mudd to tap into. Plus, everyone praises the former fireman’s work ethic and maturity.

But of course, there is the small matter of age. Even if Watkins becomes a Pro Bowler, his upside is limited. His second contract wouldn’t come until he was over the age of 30. That’s not a deal-breaker — 44 offensive linemen over the age of 30 started at least 10 games in 2010. But it is by far the biggest downside of the selection.

Below are the scouting reports on Watkins from various draft experts and the selection they projected him to be picked in their most recent mock drafts.

Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News (#28 overall, to New England):

Watkins is the safest pick in the entire draft - the one player you can confidently say will be in the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s the best guard on the board, and some NFL teams were looking at him as both a center and tackle. (source)

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (#32 overall, to Green Bay):

He’s an interesting guy with his size and the versatility he provides. He’s going to continue to get better because they coach you up in the NFL. With the guard group not being particularly strong, that helps him a lot. It wouldn’t shock me if he went in the second or third round when all is said and done. (source)

Mike Mayock, NFL Network (#21 overall, to Kansas City):

I put the tape on and he jumped out at me. He’s heavy-handed [meaning Watkins ‘punches’ well], he finishes, and he’s nasty; he reminds me a lot of the [John] Moffitt kid from Wisconsin. I look at the two of them and I think they’re both interior starters. I think they’re centers or guards, and they’re starters in the league… has been coached really well… he can bend and he’s really naturally strong. He’s got what they call a 6-inch punch, and he can jar you with that 6 inches. ” (source)

Todd McShay, ESPN (#25 overall, to Seattle):

I think Danny Watkins fits in immediately as a starter and you look at his make-up: he’s a tough, physical, nasty offensive guard that’s going to upgrade this team in the run game and also help in terms of pass protection. (source)

Tommy Lawlor, Scout’s Notebook & Iggles Blitz:

Probably the most interesting prospect in the whole draft… Spent both years [at Baylor] as the  starting LT. Did a solid job there, but projects inside in the NFL.  Doesn’t have the athletic ability or footwork for playing OT. Looks like  a natural fit at G. Watkins is a tenacious blocker. He goes to the  whistle. Or the echo of the whistle. Anchors well. Able to re-set when  he is initially driven back. Sinks his hips and plays with good  leverage. Feet are fine for playing in a tight space (like G or C). Also  has a mentality that fits well at G. Sort of a bully. Likes to find a  defender and really mash on him. Uses his hands pretty well. Still raw,  but seems very coachable.

Older than teams prefer, but a real good player and the kind of guy that teams love. Should go in the early 2nd round. (source)

Wes Bunting, National Football Post (#19 overall, to New York Giants):

Watkins is… a strong anchor player, moves his feet well through contact, has the ability to play both guard spots and even some right tackle. I fully expect him to come in and start at a high level from day one. It’s not the sexiest of selections, but I love the pick and think he can be one of the better guards in the NFL early in his career. (source)

Originally published at NBC Philadelphia. Photo from Getty.

Should the Eagles Pursue Nnamdi Asomugha?

Nnamadi Asomugha Eagles Free Agency

Perhaps the biggest hole in the Eagles defense right now is at right cornerback, opposite Asante Samuel. Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson, and Joselio Hanson all got the chance to start in 2010 but none could even consistently play at an average level. So going into 2011, fans have been clamoring for the team to add perhaps the biggest star on the free agent market — Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Asomugha is often touted as one of the best, if not the best cover corner in the league. The three-time consecutive Pro Bowler doesn’t come up with a lot of interceptions, but quarterbacks notoriously avoid his side of the field. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, receivers Asomugha covered were targeted only 29 times for 3.7 percent of his snaps, by far the least in the NFL (Samuel was second with 41 targets and 6.1 percent).

Asomugha would fit perfectly at right cornerback with the Eagles, where his size (6’ 2” 210 lbs.) and athleticism could balance Samuel’s ball-hawking skills. And it doesn’t appear that Asomugha is losing any of his game. One of the best wide receivers in the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald praised him last year: “The thing you see on tape for a man of his size, he has incredible hips and amazingly quick feet, and that’s just God given ability to be that tall and be able to move and cut and drive on balls the way he’s able to.”

Certainly on talent alone, the Eagles have to be interested. They’re used to making big splashy free agency moves and have the cash to do so. Plus, considering the cornerback spot is a pressing current concern, the team likely won’t try to look to the draft for a remedy.

Major Eagles Acquisitions

But the main question mark with Asomugha is his age. The All-Pro will turn 30 on July 6th, and giving a long-term contract to a cornerback (or any player) at that age is risky business. As you can see from the table at right, Asomugha would be the second-oldest big-time acquisition the team has ever made.

Additionally, consider recent Eagles history with cornerbacks. Troy Vincent stayed with the team through age 33, then switched to safety to prolong his career. Bobby Taylor had injury problems that preceded being let go at age 30, after which he only played one more year. Sheldon Brown lasted until just after his 31st birthday before he was traded last offseason to Cleveland. And while we might lament that decision now, keep in mind that quarterbacks throwing Brown’s way in 2010 had a 114 passer rating, third worst in the NFL among starting cornerbacks.

The broader trend among 30-plus year old cornerbacks isn’t particularly golden either. A free agent deal for Asomugha would have to include at least four years, if not more. But can he produce at a high rate for that long?

Cornerbacks After Age 30

My analysis shows that among cornerbacks from the last 15 years who started at least one game after turning 30, less than 40 percent of them started the equivalent of two full seasons in their thirties. Only 21 percent managed to start three full seasons. Unfortunately, the vast majority of players are not Eric Allen, Ronde Barber, or Charles Woodson. They slow down, they get hurt, and they drop out of the starting lineup before you know it.

What does that mean for Asomugha’s chances of coming to Philly? It depends on how risk-averse the Eagles front office is right now. Giving Asomugha a rich contract with heavy guarantees — which is what it will take to get any deal done — is no safe move. Maybe he’ll buck the odds and perform at a high level for years to come, making any contract worthwhile. More likely, if the Eagles do pursue him, it would be for a contract that puts big money up front but few guarantees down the road.

At the end of the day, Asomugha is the type of player that could instantly lift the Eagles defense and conceal a number of other weaknesses. It’s worth getting excited about any potential addition of that caliber, even if some caution is also warranted.

Originally published at NBC Philadelphia. Photo from Getty.