Eagles' Samuel trade is another 2011 move

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
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Traditional trade logic does not apply to the Asante Samuel trade. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles have enough good cornerbacks to allow them to make this deal, but this isn't a case of dealing from a strength to address a weakness. The Eagles aren't weak at sixth-round pick. They already have three, including the second one of the round. They're trading Samuel and his eight-figure salary cap number to the Atlanta Falcons (who will reduce that number as a condition of the trade) simply because he no longer fit in Philadelphia. And that's just the latest bit of proof of how all-in the Eagles still are on their 2011 offseason plan.

Samuel
The two most high-profile acquisitions the Eagles made last summer -- cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- are the two that rendered Samuel obsolete. Sure, he's a better player than Rodgers-Cromartie is. Sure, he played better in 2011 than Asomugha did. But he's more expensive than the former and doesn't fit into the Eagles' new defensive scheme the way they believe the latter does. The Eagles want to play press coverage with their cornerbacks when possible, and that's not Samuel's strength. He squirmed and said some snarky things about the front office after they brought in two big-name guys who played the same position he played. And with LeSean McCoy due for a contract extension and a number of early-round draft picks to sign, the salary cap room they pick up by dumping Samuel helps the long-range plan as well. All of that, combined with his salary, combined with his age (31) means he's the guy who has to go.

But this move is, effectively, a continuation of the 2011 offseason. The Eagles may well have traded Samuel last year if it had been a traditional offseason with free agency before the draft and time to work out an acceptable deal. Dealing him now is the latest bit of evidence in a long string that supports their claim of how strongly they believe in the 2011 plan. They're all-in on the Wide 9, on Juan Castillo, on playing press man. They believe the players they brought in last year, plus the trade that brought them DeMeco Ryans last month to shore up a woefully undermanned linebacker corps, will form the nucleus of one of the league's best defenses in 2012. They finished in the top 10 last year, after all, in spite of a rough start and a rocky transition. Given a year to jell, and a full offseason this time, the Eagles believe they will have something special.

They need to be right, or else jobs could be lost, and I guess you have to give them credit for not hedging. Trading Samuel now means they're going full-speed-ahead with this mulligan they're taking, in the belief that what they assembled last summer really was a very good team that underperformed. If they flop again at 8-8 or worse, the whole thing gets blown up anyway. If Samuel intercepts a pass and the Falcons eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs next year, they could look like fools. They know all of this, and they're dealing him anyway. All I'm saying is, when you trade away a player as good as Asante Samuel and all you get back is a sixth-round pick, your plan had better work.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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