The Falcons’ signing of defensive end Ray Edwards last week should improve a defense that too often has come up short in two areas: pass rush and pass coverage. The question now is whether they can improve coverage, and that’s why I’m bringing up this name: Asante Samuel.
Several fans have emailed me (and Barrister Ledbetter) to ask about Asante. Here’s what I can tell you: The Falcons would love him but I just don’t know that a deal is feasible.
Asante is 30, but he has gone to the Pro Bowl the last four years. He’s also available. Philadelphia’s signing of free agent Nnamdi Asomugha and acquisition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie leaves Samuel expendable. The Eagles are hoping to trade him.
The cornerback job on the opposite side of Dunta Robinson currently is manned by restricted free agent Brent Grimes, who has yet to sign his contract tender (and isn’t at Samuel’s level anyway). It’s also worth noting that Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was in New England when Samuel was drafted in 2003.
Here’s the problem: Even if the Falcons trimmed salary elsewhere on the roster and somehow found a way to fit Samuel under the cap — his contract pays $8.4 million this season and $10.4 million next year — they don’t have anything to trade. Their 2012 first- and fourth-round picks next season went to Cleveland in the Julio Jones trade. If they traded their second- and/or third-rounder, they wouldn’t have a draft left.
Therefore the only realistic hope of the Falcons getting Samuel would be if Philadelphia was unable to spin a trade and simply released him for salary cap relief. That isn’t likely to happen. Then again, NFL general managers value their draft picks and only a few teams will be in the market to take on Samuel’s salary.
But if he is released, don’t be surprised if the Falcons swoop in.
By Jeff Schultz