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Monday, June 20, 2011
Ike Taylor as Asomugha fallback?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

We've heard the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins mentioned as possible destinations for free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha once free agency finally opens. We've heard Baltimore and Houston and Tampa Bay and other possibilities as well. We don't know where Asomugha will sign. What we do know is that it will be with only one team -- whether it's one of the ones we've named here or not. The others will still have a need at cornerback and will need to move down to the No. 2 target on their lists.

Because of this, I often get the question of who that No. 2 target might be. Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins fans want to know, if their team fails (or decides not) to sign Asomugha, who else will be out there for them. So when I read this piece last week by Jeff Chadiha on five guys poised to hit it big in free agency, Ike Taylor's name at No. 5 caught my eye.

We're obviously NFC East-focused here, but in my previous job I covered the whole league. So I'm not completely ignorant of the affairs of a team like, for instance, the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. It was my assumption, while spending time around them during the playoffs and at the Super Bowl, that Taylor would return to Pittsburgh in spite of being an unrestricted free agent. But he's getting a lot of attention as a guy who's looking for a payday, and when that happens one begins to wonder if he really does intend to stay home.

If Taylor is going to hit the open market, he'd do well to "draft" Asomugha -- i.e., wait for the former Oakland superstar to sign somewhere and let Asomugha's deal drag up the value of whatever deal Taylor ends up getting, from Pittsburgh or otherwise. Heck, if Asoumgha signs quickly with, say, the Eagles, Taylor could stick up the Cowboys, Texans, Redskins, Ravens or whoever else because those teams might then be more desperate for cornerback help.

Some debate going on about whether Taylor might actually be the better player than Asomugha. I'm not seeing it. Sure, he's the more physical player, but that could be a curse as well as a blessing, especially if you're giving a guy a long-term contract and want to keep him healthy. Asomugha is a brilliant cover corner, surpassed only by Darrelle Revis, and deserves the biggest CB payday on this year's market, whenever it opens. But Taylor shouldn't be far behind. And if he really is serious about leaving Pittsburgh, he could be a pretty nice consolation prize for a team that loses out on the Asomugha sweepstakes.