The Atlanta Falcons announced that 33-year old cornerback Asante Samuel has been released today, together with linebacker Stephen Nicholas.
Samuel spent the last two NFL seasons in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles traded him to the Falcons in April 2012 in exchange for a seventh round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Eagles used that pick to draft running back Bryce Brown, who since then has been the team’s backup running back.
Samuel was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2003. Five years later, in 2008, he signed as a free agent with the Eagles. He was given a six-year, $56 million contract. He stayed with the Eagles until the 2011 NFL season. In his four years in midnight green, he recorded a total of 135 tackles (solo and assisted) and 23 interceptions and was voted to the Pro Bowl three times. However, the presence of cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and his big contract figures led to him being traded.
As a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Samuel had a very good first year with five interceptions. In 2013, he played in eleven games as injuries plagued his season. The Falcons finished with a 4-12 record and they decided to shake up their defense – the release of Samuel was part of the plan.
Samuel just turned 33 and Philadelphia lack depth at cornerback. Could a reunion materialise?
Aside starters Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, the Eagles have no real options (Brandon Boykin remains their nickel corner). Sooner or later, they have to get someone who can replace Williams or Fletcher, if one of them goes down. They can’t rely on Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh.
Given his age, Samuel will not be offered big money. If the Eagles could sign him to a one-year contract for the league’s minimum salary (close to $1 million for veterans that are 10 or more years in the NFL), then they might want to explore this option. He could provide depth at safety, even though he had no success when he was used as one in 2011. His ball skills were missed in Philadelphia until Boykin showed up in 2013.
That said, I believe the Eagles will not even call Samuel. They decided to go with younger players and more physical corners and I don’t think they will abandon that strategy or just make an exception. I would say we have seen the last of Samuel as an Eagle, unless he decides to retire as a Philly Bird.