All right, so, a lot of things have to happen before the Eagles actually sign Asante Samuel, but the fact that he's in Philadelphia today makes my earlier certainty on this issue look truly, fantastically dumb. To recap:
Look, I make a lot of bad predictions, but there's no way in hell the Eagles are going to sign Samuel. Not that the guy isn't a good player, because he is, but you're completely nuts if you think the Eagles are going to tie up 10 million bucks a year for anything other than a quarterback or a STUD defensive end. It's just not happening.
In retrospect, I probably should have stopped after the first eight words. That part's still true. At least now I can stop referencing Bruce Gradkowski every time I do my quarterly spiel: "Look, I know predictions are hard, but..."
So, if you'll all please just pretend not to notice as I race to catch up to the rest of the crowd here, I thought I might take a look at what signing Samuel would mean for the team. Obviously, the hot rumor going around is that the Eagles are going to sign Samuel and then trade one of their other cornerbacks for help somewhere else. Spadaro even put that thought out this morning in his free agency blog:
Obviously, you would wonder if there would be another shoe to drop here. If the Eagles sign Samuel, would they trade ...? We can consider that for another time. Let's get a deal done first.
And since everyone dreams big with these things, folks were immediately throwing Lito out the door for Larry Fitzgerald. Let me be a little more careful then I've been so far here this week: it is hard for me to see how this franchise would be willing to trade away a proven playmaker like Lito (who has a very reasonable contract) to replace him with a perhaps slightly better playmaker (and we would have to see how he did in this system first) who would have a GINORMOUS contract.
You're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million bucks guaranteed for Fitz and Samuel. That would be difficult, though certainly not impossible, to square with the Eagles' salary structure to date.
A more reasonable trade possibility would be Sheldon Brown for someone a lot less big. But then you're still playing 40 percent of your snaps next year with Joselio Hanson on the field as your nickel corner. And Joselio Hanson ain't stopping Wes Welker.
All of which means it seems to me that if the Eagles really think they need to throw $10 mil a year at Asante Samuel to shore up their pass defense, then they're not going to immediately turn around and weaken that same pass defense by trading one of their other cornerbacks.
Although I've been known to be wrong...
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Wouldn't it be deliciously ironic, by the way, if the one guy who didn't think the team needed to add playmakers is the same guy who now would lose his starting job if the Eagles sign Samuel? Oops.
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So assuming there's no trade involved, what's the impact on the franchise?
On the field, there's no question it's an upgrade. Asante Samuel is a much better starting cornerback than Sheldon Brown and Sheldon Brown is a much better nickel cornerback than Joselio Hanson. Samuel's presence might even be the kick in the pants Lito needs to take his game to the next level as well. In a world without salary limitations, the deal is a no-brainer.
But of course, this is the NFL, and salary restrictions are the name of the game. Astute Eagles observers have noticed for the past couple years that the team's propensity for locking up young players to long-term deals would eventually mean the team would have a serious cash surplus on its hands as the salary cap continued to explode. That time appears to be now.
There are two problems, though. The first one is what impact Samuel's contract would have on the rest of the locker room. I mean, the guy's good, but is he twice as good as Lito Sheppard? Three times as good as Brian Westbrook? I don't think so. And maybe everyone plays nice this year to make a run at a ring, but eventually you have to wonder how that's going to play out.
Secondly -- and I hate that I'm saying this -- but if the New England Patriots decided that Samuel wasn't worth the kind of long-term deal that last year's salary cap structure would have mandated, do you really want your team to be the one saying, "Actually, you guys with your three rings and nearly undefeated season and best franchise of the current century just don't know what you're talking about"?
That makes me a little nervous. And that's where I get into the stuff about how does he fit into the Eagles' system and how will his psyche hold up after he pockets 20+ million bucks this season and then bites on an out and up in his first game at the Linc (with predictable fan reaction)?
And yeah, at one level it's not my money so why do I care. But as the Eagles wave goodbye to their last big free agent mistake, is it too much to worry that they might be saying hello to their next one?