In the professional world when an individual isn’t happy with their working environment, there are two common courses of action. The weak sulk, moan, and become a generally unproductive mess, while the strong and motivated work harder to prove their value.
Then there’s the third option that’s a hybrid of the first two: speak your damn mind. Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel chose door No. 3 yesterday when he made his first training camp appearance after several days off due to personal reasons. During his absence the Eagles added a few players at his position who are kind of a big deal, trading Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals and receiving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return, and signing Nnamdi Asomugha.
When he met the media hoard, Samuel was blunt with his remarks, saying “no comment” when asked if he requested a trade due to the highly talented log jam in the Eagles secondary.
From the Philadelphia Daily News:
Samuel indicated support for the idea that he, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could all play together, though he did not eagerly embrace it as the greatest idea ever.
“If they’re tired of my big-playmaking ability, maybe they’ll ship me off,” Samuel said several times in answer to questions about how he sees the future unfolding. “Maybe they want to keep me. Who knows?”
Asked whether he wants to remain an Eagle, Samuel said: “I want to be where I’m wanted. If I’m wanted here, [fine]. If I’m not appreciated here, life goes on. I move on.”
Does he feel wanted here?
“It’s probably 50-50, you know?” Samuel said. “So we’ll see how it goes.”
It’s that feeling of being wanted, and being a valued player in the eyes of coaches and management that’s primarily troubling Samuel. He needs to feel loved, and feels as though he’s earned it with his 42 interceptions over an eight-year career, good enough for three selections to the All-Pro team.
Interception numbers for corners are cute, but often they can either be a mirage, or they don’t show the breadth of a players’ talent. For example, Samuel had seven picks last year, which is only four less than what Asomugha has had in his entire career.
But the ultimate barometer of the traditional shutdown corner is how much his mere presence makes quarterbacks shy away from his side of the field. Asomugha and Samuel are two of the least targeted corners in the game, meaning that with their personnel the Eagles have the opportunity to severely limit the opposition’s deep downfield threat. Declining this unique defensive structure would be a massive mistake.
The problem for the Eagles–and it’s a very good problem–is that there’s a point of pride associated with being one of the two starting corners, and a stigma that comes with being the nickelback on passing downs.
One solution to fix the fractured ego of Samuel is to abandon the standard approach of using just two corners. Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said that in today’s pass-crazed league using three corners on every down is more common, and that pursuing a three-corner formation regularly has now become a viable option under consideration.
While on the field a different scheme could be an easy fix, the Eagles’ salary cap won’t be, hence the case for moving Samuel. Philadelphia has roughly $4.5 million left to work with against the cap after signing first-round pick Danny Watkins, and Samuel will account for about $9.3 million. If an asset with that kind of value isn’t going to be used properly then Samuel becomes stagnant cap space and needs to be traded. After the loss of Stewart Bradley the linebacker corps could use some fortification.
What the Eagles need to realize is that having three supremely talent corners is more luxury than surplus. It’s sounding like Castillo knows this, and he knows that few offenses could match his arsenal of elite secondary defenders.
Hopefully his superiors–head coach Any Reid and GM Howie Roseman–come to the same realization and see that moving Samuel would be foolish, and a waste of a unique opportunity.
And hopefully Samuel keeps his head down and learns to play nice with his new cornerback friends. If those talents in South Beach taught us anything, it’s that the ultimate enemy of the Dream Team is chemistry.