--Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel's days with the Eagles are numbered. He is expected to be traded soon, likely before the April 26 draft. The Eagles talked to several teams about Samuel at this week's league meetings and the Tennessee Titans left those meetings with a lead over the rest of the field in the bidding for the veteran.
Samuel has been considered one of the league's top ballhawks with an NFL-best 39 interceptions over the last six seasons. But he turned 32 in January, is coming off a sub-par season and is scheduled to make $9.5 million this season.
The Titans lost left cornerback Cortland Finnegan to the Rams in free agency.
The Eagles have an embarrassment of riches having added two other Pro Bowl corners -- Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- before the 2011 season began. Samuel has become the odd man out in Philadelphia.
The Eagles first thought they could fit all three into Juan Castillo's defensive scheme last season, but none of them were suited to play inside.
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are compatible to the Eagles' scheme in that they excel in press coverage, while Samuel is essentially an off-corner whose strength is playing on the outside, reading the quarterback and jumping routes.
Castillo tried to use Rodgers-Cromartie inside in their three-corner nickel package last season, but he clearly belongs on the outside. Their best slot corner is veteran Joselio Hanson. The Eagles also have two young corners that they are high on -- 2011 third-round pick Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes.
"We feel corner is a position of strength for us right now," general manager Howie Roseman said. "At the same time, in talking to teams around the league, you're talking about positions where maybe there's a weakness where you have a strength, and you try to see if there's a match."
Samuel, who signed a seven-year, $56 million free-agent deal with the Eagles in 2008, is ready for a change of scenery. He was not happy last year when the Eagles dangled him as trade bait both during the summer after acquiring Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, and again before the October trade deadline. He lashed out at Roseman and club president Joe Banner, calling them "fantasy football guys."
Now, he's ready to do whatever it takes to facilitate a trade. League sources said Samuel has told the Eagles to put the word out that he would be willing to restructure his contract if he is traded.
"His salary is an issue (standing in the way of a trade)," the source said. "But he's been vocal that if a team is interested in him, he's willing to take a pay cut. He knows it doesn't help him (to refuse to restructure his contract). He can still go somewhere else and make a lot of money and be a lot more wanted than he is in Philly right now."
The Titans expressed early interest in Samuel and are reportedly offering a conditional third-round pick, presumably in next year's draft.
If the Eagles trade Samuel, Rodgers-Cromartie would move back to his natural position outside.
"Playing outside is a different position than playing inside," Roseman said. "It's hard to just get thrown in there like he did last year and do it and do it well. If he had an offseason where he had a lot of reps, you might have seen something different. But he was put in a spot where it was new to him."
Rodgers-Cromartie's skill set makes him a natural for the boundary. He's tall with long arms, but isn't particularly physical and doesn't have the short-area change-of-direction skills you need to be a slot corner.
Asked about Samuel's status at the league meetings, head coach Andy Reid said, "He's obviously on the team. We'll see how things go with the three of them. I said this last year and I'll say it again, it's a pretty good situation to have, having three Pro Bowl corners. Asante and Nnamdi are a little bit older, but both of them can still play and play at a high level. We'll see how things work out."
Samuel hasn't been the easiest player to coach. He only cares about interceptions. He doesn't like to tackle and he doesn't like to play press coverage, which frequently has been a problem for the three defensive coordinators he's played for in Philadelphia.
But Reid has managed to maintain a pretty good relationship with Samuel.
"Asante has a great personality," the coach said. "He is what you would call a live wire. I've enjoyed having him. I understand him. I talk to him one-on-one. We communicate in our way. That's how we go about it."
--Coach Andy Reid denied a Los Angeles Times report that he threatened to quit if the club didn't give him more power. "I've had final say (over personnel) for a number of years," he said. "I think one of our strengths has been that we work well as a front office. I'm very into doing it as a team. So that's how we go about things. We share ideas. We have open communication. (Other) people do have input and I welcome that. And I make that final decision." Asked if he threatened to quit, Reid said, "That's not what was happening."
--The Eagles turned the ball over 38 times last season. That's the most giveaways by an Andy Reid-coached team since 1999, which was his first season in Philadelphia. Nine of those turnovers came in the red zone, including six by quarterback Michael Vick (four interceptions, two lost fumbles). Reid said cutting down on turnovers will be one of his team's top priorities this season.
"Turnovers kill you in this league. Look at New England last year. Their defense wasn't as good as what they wanted, but they eliminated turnovers (17, third fewest in the league) and they did well."
--Reid thinks bringing Todd Bowles in to coach the team's secondary will be a big help to defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Castillo was the team's long-time offensive line coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator last season.
Said Reid, "Todd's a good addition. He's very smart and very knowledgeable. He's somebody that Juan can bounce things off. I didn't feel necessarily that he had that kind of guy last year. I've had Marty Mornhinweg (the team's offensive coordinator) and Jim Johnson (the team's late defensive coordinator). This is somebody Juan can kind of bounce things off of and communicate with."
--At 5-10 and just 203 pounds, LeSean McCoy isn't a big running back. But he still was one of the league's most effective short-yardage runners last season. He converted 39 of 51 situations of two yards or less into first downs or touchdowns, including 14 of 17 in the Eagles last four games.
"He's really good at that," coach Andy Reid said. "He's able to get his pad level down. You wouldn't perceive him to be able to do that. People always equate size with short yardage and goal line. But that's not really the case. I've studied that aggressively. Patience and then seeing small daylight and hitting it (are the keys to an effective short-yardage runner)."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Everything you're looking for, from what I've seen in successful general managers around the league, I think he has. It starts with work ethic. Understanding the game. There's no doubt from those of us internally that he's a talented, talented evaluator. He understands the cap and the role it plays in building a team probably better than any GM in the league. We're all very confident about where he's headed." - Eagles president Joe Banner on general manager Howie Roseman.
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