Cornering the Market

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The Eagles added Nnamdi Asomugha to an already-impressive group of cornerbacks. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Eagles are all in.

In a stunning move Friday, the team agreed with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on a five-year, $60 million contract, landing the best free agent on the market and one of the top players in the NFL.

With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added Thursday and four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel already on the roster, the Eagles boast the best collection of cornerback talent in the league.

Add in defensive end Jason Babin, whose free agent agreement was also officially announced Friday, and the Eagles have quickly assembled impressive defensive talent to go with their explosive offense.

The moves back up the team's promise to be aggressive in free agency. They are also a clear sign of coach Andy Reid's commitment to win big - and win now - as he enters his 13th season in Philadelphia.

"Like everything else, it's been fast and furious," Reid said at the team's training-camp site. Looking over the team's free-agent spending spree, he said with typical understatement, "It's a pretty good list."

Poll

Do you think the Eagles signing cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was a good move?

On Twitter, guard Todd Herremans wrote simply: *BOOM*

General manager Howie Roseman, asked if he has a Super Bowl-caliber team, said, "I think so. I think it is."

But the acquisition of two talented cornerbacks immediately raised questions about the future of Samuel, who until Friday was the team's best defensive player.

Roseman was evasive when asked how the Eagles would handle the three corners.

"It's always been a priority position for us, corners and pass rushers on defense," Roseman said. The team lacked a dependable complement for Samuel last year. Because they play their nickel package so much, "We do consider the third corner a starter."

Still, it's easy to wonder how the team can manage the egos and paychecks of three corners, all of whom have been Pro Bowlers. It seems unlikely that Samuel would accept a diminished role.

A league source with knowledge of the team's plans said the Eagles plan to keep all three, but that they would be open to a trade if they got a "fantastic" offer.

"We've never been shy about exploring our options, whether it is free agents or in the draft," Roseman said.

Samuel, 30, has not reported to training camp. The team has said he has been excused for personal reasons. He and his agent did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

To land Asomugha, who turned 30 earlier this month, the Eagles broke with their tradition of shying away from players who have hit that age and gave him $25 million in guarantees. In doing so, they landed a big, talented, four-time all pro - including each of the last three years - who is also praised for his charitable work.

"It was a unique opportunity to get a unique player," Roseman said.

The Eagles badly needed an upgrade at cornerback, but it seemed they were out of the Asomugha sweepstakes once they acquired the 25-year-old Rodgers-Cromartie in Thursday's Kevin Kolb trade. But while public speculation focused on the Jets, Texans and Cowboys, the Eagles were in touch with Asomugha's representatives from the start of free agency.

Talks heated up Thursday, and Roseman finalized the deal from a Lehigh dorm Friday.

The team is under the salary cap, Roseman said, but he conceded that in going with so much star power at cornerback and defensive end they may have to go lighter elsewhere. The Eagles are extremely young at safety and linebacker.

But they primarily value corners and pass rushers on defense, which is why they also brought in Babin.

The Eagles also announced the signing of two other veteran free agents, wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, a former Raider who can also return punts, and tight end Donald Lee, who was with the Packers in 2010.

But Asomugha is the prize.

"His priority was to go to a place where he was going to compete for a world championship, and we think that's why we had a shot," Roseman said.

It's a goal the Eagles are making bold moves to achieve.

 


Nestled in the Nest

Here are the free agents the Eagles have acquired so far:

CB Nnamdi Asomugha

QB Vince Young

DE Jason Babin

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins

TE Donald Lee


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com

or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.