Here are three thoughts on Asante Samuel and his future with the Eagles:
1. While I've detailed the case for keeping him, anyone who heard Samuel talk to reporters Monday had to leave with the sense that he thinks he'll be playing for another team pretty soon. Samuel's simple "No comment" response to a question about whether he's asked for a trade seemed pretty telling.
But really, it just backed up the vibe I've been getting since the Eagles announced the Nnamdi Asomugha signing on Friday. After hearing Howie Roseman talk, I even wondered at the time if the Eagles already had a deal in place for Samuel.
Then today, Joe Banner told Pro Football Talk that teams are formulating offers for Samuel.
What would the Eagles want in return? I've maintained that an above average right tackle makes the most sense. Now that Danny Watkins has signed, that is clearly the team's biggest need. King Dunlap and Austin Howard have rotated at right tackle so far in camp, and Winston Justice has continued his rehab. I just can't believe the Eagles would go into the season with such a big question mark protecting Michael Vick's blind side.
But that's a pretty specific request. And I'm not sure there's a cornerback-needy team that'd be willing to part with a starting right tackle for Samuel.
I've heard people suggest the Eagles acquire a linebacker in return, but given the way this team has viewed that position, I don't see that being enough, although it obviously depends on the player.
What about future draft picks? In a year where Banner has described the team's philosophy as all in, that wouldn't make sense. Why give up a Pro Bowl cornerback for picks that can't help you in 2011?
2. Which brings us to point number two. What happens if the Eagles can't find a suitable trade partner? They are not going to just give Samuel away. Remember, this is a team that is known to wait until it finds a deal it likes - even when the rest of the league knows it has a player on the market. We saw that with both the Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb deals.
So what happens if Samuel stays? The Eagles will need to exercise some damage control. When asked today if he feels wanted, Samuel said "It's probably 50/50."
And considering the comments made by Roseman and Banner, that's not much of a surprise. If Samuel comes back, the Eagles will likely need to massage his ego a little bit and make him feel wanted. Normally, the easiest way to do that is the old financial apology, but that doesn't make sense here since Samuel is in the fourth year of a six-year deal.
Clearly, the Birds will have to go out of their way to let Samuel know he's appreciated so he doesn't become a distraction. Based on what I've seen and heard from Asomugha so far, he seems like an outstanding teammate and should be able to help to some degree, but it will be challenging.
3. A couple final notes on why I still think the Eagles would benefit from keeping all three corners.
Juan Castillo talked today about using Asomugha in a similar role to the way the Packers use Charles Woodson. I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I do know the Packers found it necessary to keep three cornerbacks on the field last year in the playoffs against the Eagles.
I went back and looked at snap counts with the help of Pro Football Focus. In that game, Woodson played all 66 defensive snaps. Tramon Williams played 65 of 66. And Sam Shields played 63 of 66.
In other words, they clearly had a need for three good cornerbacks, and all three stayed on the field.
Is that going to be the case every week? Probably not. A lot depends on the opposing offense and its scheme and personnel. But I still think the Eagles can get creative in finding a way to get all three guys on the field, and I think it's the best option if they want to go all in this season.
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