What Would a New Contract For DRC Look Like?

I’ve opined before on giving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a contract extension, going as far as to call it an offseason priority. With Nnamdi Asomugha aging and only unproven recent draftees behind him, locking up Rodgers-Cromartie would go a long way to preserve continuity in the defensive backfield. Obviously, whether you want to extend him also stems from your impression of him as a player. If you’ve been following along, you know that I think DRC’s stellar play on the outside at the end of 2011 after he languished in the slot for most of the year suggests big things could be in store for him. (And reports out of training camp are stellar so far.)

But unless Howie Roseman is discussing things behind the scenes during training camp, it doesn’t look like he agrees, with either Rodgers-Cromartie’s value or his skill. Let’s go deeper and see what the difference in money might be based on letting DRC play out this contract year. Here’s a table of recent top cornerback contracts given out for players in his age range. Financial details are on the right and on the field stats are on the left (Pro Bowl appearances, games started, yards per attempt, interceptions):

Looking at the finances first, you can see there are different measures for large contracts. The total millions is a nice overall number, although it tends to overstate the “real” value of the deal (with fake years at the end). The yearly figure and guarantee may give a more accurate accounting of the contract.

It’s interesting to look at how the deals were structured and how they turned out. DeAngelo Hall and Dunta Robinson got massive contracts that turned out to be bad for their teams—although you can see why the Redskins and Falcons, respectively, were willing to dish out that kind of dough. For example, Hall was young, even for this group, and already had two Pro Bowl appearances and 22 interceptions.

The following year, Antonio “Headcase” Cromartie received a smaller contract than his number stats warranted because of his off the field problems. Leon Hall got a slightly larger and slightly longer deal. Johnathan Joseph made out like a bandit, with nearly $10 million a year and $24 million guaranteed.

This offseason, Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan both just bested Joseph’s contract. Eric Wright has had an up-and-down career, most recently in Detroit, and he signed a more modest five-year free agent deal. Meanwhile, Lardarius Webb, who had a stellar 2011 season with the Ravens, got the largest total amount. That figure is inflated by an extra year though; as you can see the guarantee is less than some of his peers.

So, where does Rodgers-Cromartie fit in? At 26 years old, he has fewer games started than anyone other than Webb, although his other stats are better than average. He has a low yards per attempt figure and a high interception rate. Even with his atrocious play in the slot last season, 2011 was much more in line with his first two seasons in the league. DRC’s 2010 letdown that prompted him to be traded might have been an outlier.

The question becomes what Rodgers-Cromartie would command in today’s market. Given his perceived inconsistency, lack of physicality, and a deficit of experience compare to his peers, DRC probably wouldn’t be in line for a Carr or Cortland-sized contract. Wright’s deal this year and Hall’s in 2011 look like better comparables: perhaps 5 years, $40 million, $16 million guaranteed.

Let’s say though, that Rodgers-Cromartie plays out this season, putting up his career averages, and enters the market in 2012. At that point, with 60 games started, 7.2 yards per attempt against, and 16 or so interceptions, he could make the case that he’s better than Carr or Finnegan. DRC would probably received $25 million guaranteed and upwards of $10 million per year on the open market—a substantial upgrade from his current value.

By not re-signing his second cornerback now, Roseman risks the price going up next year. He may be making one of a few calculated bets, though. Perhaps he thinks DRC simply isn’t worth a long term contract. He’s betting that Rodger-Cromartie will show that he’s not worth top money. Or Howie’s looking at the other backups and assuming that someone like Curtis Marsh will be able to slide in a year from now. Or maybe Roseman is willing to use the franchise tag (at enormous one-year cost) as necessary to keep DRC on hand in 2013.

Looking at the state of the defensive backfield and the market for cornerbacks as it stands now, I would buy into DRC long term. The potential rewards, both financially and on the field, are great, and the downside to not paying him could be severe next offseason. Get it done.

Photo from Getty.

Anticipating the Impact of Todd Bowles

Todd Bowles is 6’2”, 203 lbs. Well, at least he was that big when he played in the NFL as a free safety for eight years.

Normally, the height and weight of a coach wouldn’t matter much. But in the case of Bowles, we can draw a clear line between his frame and his personnel preferences as a secondary coach.

As you can see at right, teams where Bowles has been the secondary coach consistently draft tall defensive backs (the same way Jim Washburn only picked tall defensive ends). In fact, he’s only drafted one defensive back under six feet since 2003, and that was in the seventh round. Clearly, Bowles’s preference is for bigger, more physical players. He probably would not, for example, have endorsed the selections of Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, two 5’10” corners.

More relevant: Asante Samuel is not the type of cornerback Bowles had in mind as his prototypical starter. As I’ve mentioned before, the Samuel trade was about ego, a broken locker room, and justifying the 2011 personnel decisions — not on-the-field performance or the salary cap. But I doubt Bowles was campaigning for Samuel to stick around.

Instead, he’s probably quite content with his starters at cornerback for 2012. Nnamdi Asomugha is 6’2”, 210 lbs and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is 6’2”, 182 lbs. Hopefully Bowles can help mold a solid defensive backfield around the two of them. Curtis Marsh also stands to gain quite a lot from the Bowles hire, since his athletic 6’1”, 197 lbs frame would be perfect for his new coach’s system.

On the other hand, Kurt Coleman probably shouldn’t get too comfortable as a starter. I’ve discussed his athletic limitations before, but Bowles may be particularly keen to find someone with a higher ceiling. The counter-example of course, is 5’9” Brandon Boykin, whose selection Bowles must have approved. But perhaps he is willing to make an exception for the physical slot corner, regardless of his size, given the value he presented in the fourth round.

Alright, you’re probably saying, this is fun roster speculation and all, but what does it really mean? I’ll admit, not much right now. We already knew who the likely starters were and presumably Bowles will play whomever is the best in practice, not go simply by their official measurements. The more important question remains: is Bowles really a great coach? Every reporter hailed the addition as brilliant, but I’m less impressed by the fossil record:

Photo from Getty.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Cornerback

Nnamdi Asomugha

What the Eagles did: Cornerback was a mess last year. We’ve been over that. You can’t just throw three Pro Bowlers with different styles together and expect things to work out of the box. Thus, the inevitable happened: Asante Samuel was shipped out of town.

What the loss of Samuel means to this defense is tough to gauge. On one hand, he’s still a great cornerback. While his interceptions were down in 2011, other stats showed that Asante was as good as ever. On the other hand, his limited style of play clearly forced running mates Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie into suboptimal positions. Asomugha has historically shined when he locks on one of the opposing wide receivers, and Rodgers-Cromartie’s closing speed makes him a better fit on the outside.

Now they can play the way they want, and it’s up to new secondary coach Todd Bowles to make them comfortable. So far the talk has been that the coverages are simpler, which should be a relief to fans. The numbers (re-posted below) show that Nnamdi and DRC can both be very effective starters — as long as they’re playing in the right spots.

Nnamdi Asomugha Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 2011 Coverage Stats

Another downside to losing Samuel, however, is that the depth behind the Eagles two starters is relatively murky. Who are the backups on the outside if either player gets hurt? Curtis Marsh, second-year player out of Utah State, is athletically gifted, but is a relative newcomer to the cornerback position. He played a grand total of 13 snaps last season, and still needs to shed the “project” label. Brandon Hughes is entering his fourth year, but hasn’t proven he can even be Dimitri Patterson yet. Then you have a wasted 2010 fourth-round pick in Trevard Lindley, as well as undrafted free agent and apparent head case Cliff Harris.

Inside, in the slot, we have an interesting battle shaping up. Joselio Hanson, the designated nickel corner in this defense since 2007, I believe, was cut last year before being re-signed at a lower price. Clearly the Eagles think he’s replaceable. And they brought in his replacement, or at least heir apparant, in Brandon Boykin, the fourth-round pick. Boykin has all the physical skills except height going for him, and he already gained some experience in the slot at Georgia.

What I would have done: The way Howie Roseman handled the Samuel trade situation was appalling. A player of that caliber should have been worth more than a seventh-round pick, but by the time he pulled the trigger the Eagles had no leverage. That said, he had backed himself into a corner (haha). Trading Samuel was the only possible solution to a problem Roseman created in the first place.

Way-too-early prediction: Based on Rodgers-Cromartie’s stats above, I’m optimisic that he will be a solid outside cornerback this year. Actually, it seems prudent to lock up DRC at this point in order to grab a little bit of discount. And I’m only slightly worried about Asomugha losing a step in 2012. He should still have at least another good year or two left in the tank.

The slot battle is Boykin’s to lose, and I doubt he will. After that, it would be nice to see one of the other young corners step up. Bowles coached bigger, athletic corners in Miami. Hopefully he can use that experience to mold Marsh into an NFL player.

Photo from Getty.

Asante Samuel, Secondary Coach

Les Bowen:

Asomugha said he isn’t sure the corners will play strictly man, but he does think that if they play zone, it will be a type of zone most players are familiar with.

"There were more unique types of coverages that we were doing last year," Asomugha said, struggling to put it diplomatically. Remember, he is the guy who told us toward the end of last season that one of the struggles the Eagles went through was Castillo learning what could actually work in the NFL. Now, Asomugha said, "even if you came from college or from a different team, there are similarities with the stuff we’re doing now that you might have done there, whereas last year, there weren’t many."

Just how screwed up were the coverages last year that a three-time Pro Bowler had trouble mastering them?

On a related note, from Jeff McLane:

"And Asante would basically be my coach and Dominique [Rodgers-Cromartie’s] coach throughout the week," Asomugha said. "There were certain things that I would be like, ‘Oh, OK, so we’re going to play this way,’ and it was the way that he would play it, which is a softer-type of reading game. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s not easy.’ "

Notes on the Rest of the 2012 Eagles Draft

Vinny Curry Marshall Philadelphia Eagles

The NFL draft is now in the books, and by almost all accounts the Eagles did little to complain about. Here are my miscellaneous thoughts on what happened on days two and three:

  • Watch the Vinny Curry interviews, then watch them again and again. His Eagles fandom is clearly as raw as yours and mine, and it’s awesome to see the excitement one of us would undoubtedly have, had we the talent to end up playing for our hometown team.

  • Nick Foles, the big reach. There has been serious quarterback inflation in the last two drafts, something which will be the focus of my post tomorrow. Until then, just consider that Nick Foles was the seventh quarterback selected, at pick 88 overall. Mike Kafka was the fifth off the board in 2010, at pick 122. A round and a half earlier, for a worse quarterback? Maybe. (Also, I’m 95 percent convinced that Russell Wilson was the real target.)

  • The Eagles have drafted defensive players with 9 of their last 11 first, second, and third round picks. So far, the results have been atrocious. Let’s hope this last batch can turn things around.

  • After complaining in recent years that the Eagles had become too safe in the late rounds and undrafted free agency, I certainly can’t complain about the wave of longshot, troubled players the Eagles snagged this time around. I actually like the strategy, especially at running back, where the team took a major athlete with limited production and questionable work ethic (Bryce Brown) and a productive talent who was taken off seemingly everyone’s draft board due to injuries (Chris Polk). Especially at running back, which other than pass protection is relatively easy to pick up, one of these longshots could pay off. A veteran back up would still be nice, though.

  • There are some other interesting names on the UDFA list. Kentucky punter Ryan Tydlacka should give Chas Henry some much needed competition. Another long snapper is a shot across reliable Jon Dorenbos’s bow. And not one but two fullbacks means we’ll have a healthy fight for one of the most marginalized positions on the team.

  • Please direct all your “steal” or “reach” designations here.

  • Two things granted: Brandon Boykin had great college production and the slot corner role is becoming more and more important. That said, I’m a little hesitant about drafting a guy whose size has made every draft expert who has looked at him say, “what a great nickel back.” In some ways, this pick was the opposite of the Curtis Marsh selection last year, when the Eagles went for physicality over refined performance. It will be interesting to watch which pick turns out better for the Birds going forward.

  • There’s a lot riding on Mychal Kendricks being Andy Reid’s first successful second round linebacker — and the results need to show right away. Under no circumstance should more than one of last year’s linebackers start in 2012. Right now Brian Rolle has the inside track on keeping his weakside job, but Casey Matthews could push him there, after ending last season on a relative high note.

  • My draft predictions weren’t half bad, if I do say so myself.

Photo from Getty.

My 2012 Eagles Draft Predictions

Danny Watkins Eagles NFL Draft

Last year at this time I made eight predictions about what the Eagles would do in the draft. Some of them were more conservative than others, and I missed on one of my biggest guesses — saying that the team wouldn’t draft at their assigned first round spot. Still, I managed to get six of eight correct, and predicted the general thrust of the draft rather well (linebacker and offensive line, not defensive line).

So I’m back again for another round of likely folly. Here are my predictions for what we will see over the next few days.

  1. Carpet-bombing the defense: early and often. Big picture: all the talented young players are on offense. You can quibble with this if you want, since there’s no reason to give up already on guys like Brandon Graham or Nate Allen. Still, the defense needs more playmakers going forward, and the only way to do that is to spend at least three out of the Eagles first four picks on defensive players. I expect the team to come out of the draft with as many as half their picks going toward the front seven.

  2. No rookie running back, no safety. Unless the Eagles fall in love with one prospect, I just don’t see much benefit in adding another young running back or safety. Both positions have a single open back up job and that spot really needs to be filled with a veteran whose only responsibility is to fill in this year if something goes wrong. Instead, watch out for an Ellis Hobbs-type trade for a marginalized veteran player.

  3. One offensive lineman, maximum. Last year the Eagles snatched up three interior linemen to build out Howard Mudd’s new blocking scheme. If not for Jason Peters’s injury, I’m not sure they would have bothered drafting even one this year, but a long term project at tackle now makes sense.

  4. Chad Hall 2.0. Andy Reid loves the multidimensional ability that Hall brings to the offense so much that he’s willing to overlook his complete lack of NFL-caliber skills. I think the Eagles will draft someone like Florida’s Chris Rainey to return kicks and serve as a speedier x-factor on offense. Best case scenario, the team also gets its long-term replacement for Jason Avant with this guy.

  5. Choir boys. Howie Roseman made some comments to reporters recently in which he seemed to flirt with the idea of taking more character risks. His actions over the last two drafts say otherwise. I expect the Eagles’ fascination with captains, seniors, and consistent, big-school performers to continue (e.g. no Vontaze Burfict).

  6. Michael Vick is still safe. With few good quarterback options in this draft and the whole organization focused on getting Vick back on track in 2012, there’s no good case to reach for a quarterback of the future. Trent Edwards is tremendously uninspiring, but his competition is likely to be either a late round flier (Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore) or a veteran to be pursued later.

  7. Surprise neglect of cornerback early on. With Asante Samuel gone, there’s plenty of room to go after Dre Kirkpartrick or another cover guy in the first round. But of the Eagles defensive spots, cornerback still has the most options. The team is heavily committed to Nnamdi Asomugha over the next few years and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a likely candidate for a contract extension. Curtis Marsh is the wildcard. He made no impact in 2011, but was always considered a project with all the skills. Todd Bowles may not need another youngster.

  8. At least ten rookies. Last year one of my failed predictions was that the Eagles wouldn’t use all of their picks. But of course, they love drafting players and will probably end up trading back to add picks at least once.

I’m not making a prediction for the first round, although I already laid out what I think the Eagles are thinking (Peter King shoutout). Fletcher Cox is the potential trade-up candidate, Luke Kuechly the likely front-runner if they stay at 15 overall. Barring that I’m less sure, although a versatile pass rusher like Melvin Ingram makes the most sense of the remaining players.

Photo from Getty.

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.

Sale in Aisle 22

Mike Klis, the Denver Post:

The Broncos have expressed interest in acquiring Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, according to two NFL sources. However, the Broncos no longer believe they can strike a deal, even though trade talks advanced to the stage where the team presented two proposals — one for a late-round draft pick and the other involving a player.

5th or 6th round pick for a Pro Bowl corner like Samuel? Considering they received offers in the second round range last year, this could end up being even more of a disaster than it was already. I’ll withhold complete judgement until we see the actual deal go down, but this is a real indictment of Howie Roseman.

Looking at 2013 and the Eagles Draft Options

Andy Reid Philadelphia Eagles

One if the most common mistakes that fans make is assuming that the Eagles will draft a player because of immediate need. That rarely happens. Most of the time, the team papers over current roster flaws with free agent signings and trades, acquiring DeMeco Ryans being a prime example.

You should never expect even a first round pick to contribute much in their rookie year. If you end up with a quick starter, great. But relying on guys like Danny Watkins right away will disappoint you early and often.

The question of what position is ripe to be drafted early has more to do, in my opinion, with looking a year or two down the road. Where are the aging veterans? Where are the likely holes in the team a year from now? Let’s take a look at the 2013 roster as it looks right now:

QB: Michael Vick, Mike Kafka
RB: Dion Lewis, Stanley Havili
WR: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OT: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans
OG/C: Danny Watkins, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, J. Vandervelde, M. Gibson
DE: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt
DT: Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins
LB: DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, Brian Rolle
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Curtis Marsh
S: Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman

With the notable exception of LeSean McCoy, every Eagles offensive starter and most of the backups are signed through the next two seasons. That’s great for the team, since the offensive unit has been much more consistently good than the defense over the last few years. There’s no reason to sit on that and not draft anyone, perhaps more OL and WR depth, but there’s no major need at any of these positions.

Defense is a different story entirely; there you are more likely to need guys than not. Defensive end is probably in the best spot going forward, with two Pro Bowl starters and two players with potential already lined up. The rest is a real crap shoot.

There are only two defensive tackles signed through 2013 (although Tommy’s presumably camped out on Derek Landri’s lawn right now). Both Jenkins and Patterson are starters, but they are getting up in age, too. At linebacker there are five players but it’s tough to trust any of them, with the possible exception of Ryans. Cornerback really only has Asomugha and Marsh, with Samuel packing his bags. And safety brings us three youngsters, none of whom have proven they can be above average starters.

With all that said, I think it would be justifiable to draft any defensive position, outside of DE, in the first round. There are a couple more factors to keep your eye on as we get closer to the draft. First, will Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie get a contract extension? I already discussed this at length, but some movement there could allow the Eagles to delay drafting another corner in the first round. Second, what do the Eagles do at outside linebacker? If they obtain another starter there, they could pass on Luke Kuechly and take a flier on a second or third round LB instead.

If the Eagles take action on both of those counts, odds are that the team will be picking among the deep class of defensive tackles with pick #15.

Photo from Getty.

Priority: Lock Up Rodgers-Cromartie Long Term

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Looking at the Eagles roster as it stands now, cornerback sticks out as a position in flux.

There are eight players signed. Three of those — Nnamdi Asomugha, Joselio Hanson, and Asante Samuel — have crossed the 30-year-old mark, so their football clocks are ticking. Samuel, as discussed yesterday, likely won’t be around in a few months anyway. There’s also a quartet of unproven youngsters who Eagles fans have varying degrees of hope for — Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Trevard Lindley, and DJ Johnson.

Then there’s DRC. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the soon-to-be 26-year-old cornerback whom the Eagles received as part of the Kevin Kolb trade. A former first round pick and one-time Pro Bowl selection, Rodgers-Cromartie was supposed to pair with Asomugha and Samuel to make a fearsome trio of starting corners. Things didn’t work out as planned, partially because the young newcomer struggled in his new role as nickel corner.

I posted Rodgers-Cromartie’s 2011 outside/slot split before, but it’s worth another look:

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 2011 Coverage Stats

Once again, Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL when playing in the slot, and one of the best when playing his natural position outside. That was part of the problem in 2011, but with Samuel headed out the door, DRC has the potential to be one of the best players on the Eagles defense. That’s only potential, of course, and his inconsistent play was one of the major reasons the Cardinals were willing to part with him a year ago.

More important, however, are two factors: his age and contract status. Rodgers-Cromartie is the only proven cornerback on the Eagles roster who still has at least half a decade of NFL playing time ahead of him. If he can maintain a high level of play as a starter, he could be not only an answer for 2012, but also a long term solution to pick up the slack when Asomugha begins to fade.

The problem is, Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t signed past this upcoming season. If the Eagles let him play out his contract and he does well, they will have to franchise tag him or compete with other teams on the open market. The alternative, of course, is that they could extend him this offseason — and perhaps pick up a discount in the aftermath of DRC’s sub par 2011.

There’s a long list on Howie Roseman’s desk of Eagles players deserving new contracts and Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t at the top. Still, for the sake of the vital cornerback position, extending him this offseason should be a priority.

Photo from Getty.

Looking Backward, Forward for Asante Samuel

Asante Samuel Philadelphia Eagles

Since yesterday was Presidents Day, it seems like a good time to reflect on the Eagles own self-proclaimed president, Asante Samuel.

Samuel has had an up and down relationship with Philly fans since he arrived in 2008. First he was an overpaid slacker, then an interception machine with a fun and outsized personality, and then a few more missed tackles landed him back on the negative side of the ledger. Through it all, though, Samuel has been a one of the best coverage cornerbacks in the NFL.

Take a look at his stats with the Eagles:

Asante Samuel Coverage Stats

While 2011 was a down year for interceptions, Samuel really hasn’t shown any decline year over year. In some ways he was the best cornerback the Eagles had last season.

Did you know that Samuel has more interceptions before age 31 than any other cornerback in the last 20 years? And many of the guys just below him (Champ Bailey, Aeneas Williams, Ty Law, Deion Sanders) managed to play well through at least a few years of their thirties.

All in all, I’m relatively bullish on Samuel’s potential to remain a high value coverage corner in the next few years. If his game were built on speed and physicality, you might project more of a dropoff. But Asante has always been an interception artist, rather than a complete player.

However, it’s a near certainty that Samuel will get to play out the remainder of his career in a different jersey. The Eagles explored trade possibilities for him last year, but never pulled the trigger (even turning down a second round pick from Detroit). After a year of turmoil in the secondary, Howie Roseman has little choice but to ship Samuel out this time, probably for no more than a third round pick.

When that happens, Asante’s play and his personality will both be missed.

Photo from Getty.

The Mess of Pro Bowl Cornerbacks

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

It’s quite a feat to turn a strength into a weakness. That’s what Juan Castillo and Johnnie Lynn managed to do to the Eagles’ elite trio of cornerbacks.

Coming into the season, the three Pro Bowlers were supposed to be an asset that covered up the Eagles inexperience at safety and linebacker. Instead, we were frequently left to wonder if the coaches had any plan to use them effectively at all. The biggest problem was that through most of the season no one figured out how to play Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all in the same lineup.

After they decided not to trade Samuel, the Eagles assumed that Rodgers-Cromartie could man the slot, a position he was uncomfortable with from the start. In yet another example of poor self-scouting, that turned out to be an awful idea.

Courtesy of Pro Football Focus, here are Asomugha’s and Rodgers-Cromartie’s stats at the two positions (Samuel played almost exclusively outside):

Nnamdi Asomugha Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 2011 Coverage Stats

Starting with Asomugha, it’s worth noting that by these metrics he was stellar. Among cornerbacks with at least 25 percent of snaps, Nnamdi ranked first overall in coverage snaps per target, sixth in yards per snap, and second in snaps per reception. Each figure was down from 2010, as he was targeted more often, but they were all still elite.

Regardless, Asomugha provided similar performance no matter where he lined up. He had slightly more targets in the slot, but didn’t allow anything big.

Contrast that with Rodgers-Cromartie, who posted a massive split playing in two different positions. Out of the 44 corners last year with 25 percent or more slot snaps, he ranked 39th in snaps per target, 44th in yards per snap, and 41st in snaps per reception. That is awful. He was arguably the worst slot corner in the NFL.

Put Rodgers-Cromartie outside, and everything changes. In fact, DRC’s numbers on the outside were even better than Asomugha’s. As bad as he was on the inside, Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the best corners in the league when he was playing at his natural position.

Toward the end of the season Rodgers-Cromartie began to get more snaps outside. Partially that was to replace an injured Samuel, but even before that Asomugha would often play the slot in nickel and dime. Clearly, that was a much better defensive formation than what they had going on earlier — and that it took so long to implement is another black mark against Castillo.

Looking forward, I expect Samuel to be traded, freeing up space for DRC to play outside all the time. While Asante is still a great cornerback, playing to everyone’s strengths will be easier next year. The cornerbacks might actually be the fool-proof strength we all expected six months ago.

Photo from Getty.

Roseman Rejected 2nd Round Pick for Samuel

Jeff McLane wrote a massive 2,000 word blog post that highlights all the poor moves Howie Roseman has made over the last two years, while still maintaining Roseman should get more time to prove himself. It’s a convoluted bit of logic, but buried deep within is this scoop:

And tick off Asante Samuel the Eagles did. They should have just traded Samuel when they had the chance during training camp. Roseman, at one point, had a deal to send Samuel to the Lions for a second-round pick, two sources close to the situation said. Roseman even went so far as to have the Lions call Samuel. But he wanted a first round pick instead and called off the deal.

If true, this is rather damning for Roseman. By all accounts he spearheaded the trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the free agent signing of Nnamdi Asomugha. Then in one fell swoop Roseman torpedoed any chance the Eagles had for harmonious secondary and rejected what would have been great compensation for Samuel, a year before he ends up trading the cornerback anyway for pennies on the dollar.

(Via Noah Becker)

Say Goodbye to Asante

Bob Grotz, for the Delaware County Daily Times:

Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel has been seen, not heard around the NovaCare Complex the past couple of weeks.

And just barely seen.

Sure, he’s rehabbing a tight hamstring that will keep him out of the season finale against the Redskins.

But until the past two weeks, Samuel has been a regular at the open locker room, if only to tell reporters he’s not talking.

A quiet, if not quite amicable ending to four eventful years in Philly.