UPDATED with QUOTES
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The Eagles have pulled off a stunner and signed Nnamdi Asomugha, the team announced.
The move gives the Eagles the biggest prize on the free agent market, seemingly out of nowhere, and one of the two best cornerbacks in football. In adding Asomugha, an All Pro each of the past four years, the Eagles now have the best cornerback group in the NFL.
The Eagles and Asomugha were in touch from the start of free agency, according to a league source, but talks truly heated up Thursday afternoon.
Until now most reports had the Jets as the front runners for Asomugha - the Eagles had hardly been mentioned since free agency actually began.
The deal is for five years and $60 million, with $25 million guaranteed, a league source said, confirming an ESPN report.
“Howie (Roseman) and Joe (Banner) worked their tail off and put together this phenomenal plan,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “They came out of the gates like wild men and attacked the issue. Neither one of them has had much sleep. But they’ve rewarded our football team and the city of Philadelphia with some great players.”
“It’s always been a priority position for us,” Roseman, the Eagles general manager, said of cornerback. “Corners, pass rushers, and we felt like last year, we were in a situation where maybe we got a little short-handed, and we thought it was a place that we wanted to go heavy and have a lot of talent at. You can never have enough cover corners. That helps your pass rush and when you have an opportunity to add the players we added, we just thought we had to add those guys.”
Reid said the Eagles have had other great trios.
“It reminds me a little bit of when we had (Pro Bowl cornerbacks) Al (Harris), Troy (Vincent) and Bobby Taylor,” he said.
The Eagles have now drastically remade their defense in a matter of days, also adding defensive end Jason Babin and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The immediate question becomes what the team will do with either Asante Samuel or Rodgers-Cromartie. All three corners will remain on the team for the season - unless the team gets a fantastic trade offer, the league source said.
Samuel is still under contract and remains on the team, but he's yet to be seen at training camp. He's been on an excused absence, according to the team. Neither Samuel nor his agent, Alonzo Shavers, immediately returned messages seeking comment. Rodgers-Cromartie was scheduled to meet with reporters today, but that session was canceled - likely due to traffic getting to Lehigh.
The Eagles also signed wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (formerly of the Raiders) and tight end Donald Lee (formerly of the Packers).
A three-time Pro Bowler from 2008-10 and a four-time All Pro selection (2006, 2008-10), Asomugha (6-2, 210) has played in 122 career games (99 starts), and accumulated 310 tackles, 11 interceptions, 62 passes defensed and two sacks.
Widely regarded as one of the top cover cornerbacks in the NFL, Asomugha earned his third straight trip to the Pro Bowl in 2010 after contributing 19 tackles and six passes defensed, anchoring a Raiders defense that ranked second in the NFL behind San Diego by allowing just 189.2 passing yards per game.
Originally a first-round draft choice of the Raiders in 2003, the 30-year old cornerback spent his first eight seasons in Oakland after starring collegiately at California. Since his arrival in Oakland, the Raiders have allowed a league-low 2177 completions. He enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2006 after tying for third in the NFL with eight interceptions and adding 50 tackles, one sack and a 24-yard interception return touchdown.
That season, he was selected by the team as the Raiders MVP. A native of Lafayette, LA, Asomugha finished his collegiate career at California with 187 tackles, three sacks, seven interceptions and three touchdown returns. He attended Narbone high school in Los Angeles, and was one of the nation's top recruits as a senior. His name means "Jesus Lives" in Nigerian. Following the 2009 season, Asomugha was honored as the Byron "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year.