FLOWERY BRANCH — For Asante Samuel, it was a simple business matter.
Once his agent, Alonzo Shavers, and Falcons negotiator Nick Polk finished their numbers crunching, the Falcons traded a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft to the Philadelphia Eagles to complete the deal for the four-time Pro Bowler on Wednesday.
“I’m happy to be a Falcon,” said Samuel, who’ll be expected to help improve the team’s pass defense. “I know the city is embracing me. I’m excited. I know the Falcons already have an excellent team, excellent coaches, schemes and talent. I’m just going to add to [that and] try to get to the one common goal.”
The Falcons re-structured Samuel’s contract that called for him to make $9.9 million in 2012 and $11.4 million in 2013. They agreed to a three-year, $18.5 million deal.
“What was important for us was that he become a Falcon,” Shavers said. “From that standpoint, it was about as extensive as it gets. We were able to come up with something that they can live with and we can live with.”
Samuel said he doesn’t have a preference as to whether he plays left or right cornerback.
“I’m a confident guy,” Samuel said. “I’m going to always have confidence, and that’s how I play and how I operate on a daily basis. I’m going to come into this thing and be ready to compete.”
Over the past two seasons, Brent Grimes has played on the left side and Dunta Robinson has started on the right. The Falcons have struggled at nickel back as Brian Williams, Christopher Owens, Dominique Franks and Kelvin Hayden all played that spot over the past two seasons.
Falcons coach Mike Smith considers the nickel back to be a starter.
The Falcons have a lot of their salary cap tied up at cornerback, with Samuel and Robinson averaging $6 million apiece. On Tuesday, Grimes, signed his one-year, $10.281 million franchise tender.
Samuel believes the trio will work together just fine.
“I think it’s going to be good,” Samuel said. “Those guys are very talented and well-established. Brent Grimes is coming off the last two years. He’s adjusted and is making some big plays. Dunta has been doing his thing since he’s been there. … We are all going to come in and work together to make this thing the best that it’s ever been.”
Samuel, 31, was with the Patriots when Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was the director of college scouting there. Dimitroff coveted Samuel last season, but the Eagles’ asking price — a second-round pick — was considered too steep at the time.
He was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round (120th overall) of the 2003 draft out of Central Florida.
“We talked every time that we played each other,” Samuel said of Dimitroff. “That definitely had a lot to do with it. He definitely made me feel comfortable.”
Dimitroff was elated to pull of the trade. “Asante has established himself as a very productive player during his career,” Dimitroff said. “He is a proven player in this league, and we feel that this move upgrades the talent of our roster.”
Samuel’s days in Philadelphia were numbered after they signed Nnamdi Asomugha and acquired Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in July. The Eagles had tried to trade him since.
Samuel didn’t endear himself to management when he said the Eagles were “playing fantasy football with the owner’s money.”
However, Samuel said he enjoyed his time with the Eagles and had no hard feelings toward the organization.
“I know everybody can’t figure why this is happening and why it is going this way, but business is business,” Samuel said.
Samuel has 45 career interceptions in nine seasons, fourth among active players. His 38 interceptions since 2006 lead the league.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog