- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Over at the NFC South blog, Pat Yasinskas has done a post updating the progress of former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. The Eagles traded Samuel to the Falcons just before the draft for a seventh-round draft pick, and many Eagles fans bemoaned the deal because of how little they got in return. It was the kind of deal that made you think the Eagles believed Samuel to be done as a player, and a few weeks back Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Eagles coach Andy Reid believed Samuel was in "steep decline."
Pat spoke with Falcons coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff about Samuel and they said they're happy with him. Not a huge shock, since what are they going to say in the first week of camp? "The guy's a bum, I'm sorry we traded for him?" But Smith talked in detail about the kind of player Samuel is -- a cornerback who can match receivers' ability to play in space. And I think that's a pretty fair assessment. If they'd brought him in to be a shutdown, man-coverage corner, I think it'd be fair to say they'd made a mistake. But they didn't. They already had Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson on their roster, and they likely can use Samuel in situations that play to his strengths. And he does have several.
I don't think, based on everything I was being told at the time, that "steep decline" was the driving reason for the Eagles' decision to trade Samuel. I think it was a money issue (i.e., they wanted to get rid of his salary so they could sign their younger players long-term) and a scheme issue (i.e., they wanted to be able to play their corners in man coverage more this season and couldn't do that as long as Samuel was one of the starters). Like Pat, I would not be surprised to see Samuel do well in Atlanta. If he does, I would not automatically believe that means the Eagles made a mistake. The Eagles didn't think they could use him anymore, especially at his price. The Falcons saw a guy who fits what they want to do. It's entirely possible it could work out well both ways.