Falcons would send right message with Asante Samuel trade

Is Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel pointed for the Falcons? (AP photo)

Is cornerback Asante Samuel pointed for Atlanta? (AP photo)

(Update: The Asante Samuel trade is complete. The Falcons will send a low-round draft pick to Philadelphia for Samuel and the cornerback signed a salary cap-friendly three-year, $18.5 million contract. The team has not yet announced any other moves regarding potential restructuring of contracts of other players.)

Even if some would debate the success of their ventures, there is one undeniable reality of the Falcons’ rebuilding efforts in the past four years: Their offseasons haven’t been short of wow moments

A team doesn’t draft, sign or trade for the likes of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Dunta Robinson, Ray Edwards and Julio Jones unless there is some degree of aggressiveness in the front office. It’s why these past several weeks of mere re-signings have been met with a collective yawn. As if the Falcons suddenly are settling.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff views that perception as harsh. But maybe he actually sees some of what everybody else sees after all: The Falcons need a bold move — and Asante Samuel may be it.

Dimitroff has been holding trade talks with Philadelphia since at least Sunday for Samuel, a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback. That’s how you send a message. It’s a move that says, “We’re going for it,” not, “We’re settling.”

Samuel would be a significant upgrade for a defense that finished 20th against the pass last season, 29th in third-down situations and 18th in scoring.

There are some obstacles to getting this done, not the least of which is fitting Samuel under the salary cap. But the Falcons’ mere pursuit of him indicates two things: 1) They know they need to get better; 2) They know this week’s draft picks and new assistant coaches may not get it done.

The Falcons can’t afford to hit a wall in the postseason again. If that were to happen, owner Arthur Blank, ever about the arrow pointing up, is going to start looking at this regime in an entirely different light.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was made available to the media Tuesday after voluntary player workouts, didn’t hide his feelings for Samuel. When asked if the trade talks suggested the organization was in a “win now” mode, Ryan said, “I’m certainly in a win-now mode. That’s the only way you can approach the NFL. … As far as Asante Samuel is concerned, I can only speak from having played against him a number of times, and I know that he’s been extremely difficult to play against and done a great job.”

Funny. One minute, word leaks out that the Falcons are pursuing Samuel and the next minute cornerback Brent Grimes is driving to Flowery Branch on Tuesday morning to sign his $10.281 million offer sheet. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

Even with Grimes under contract, don’t believe Dimitroff’s interest in Samuel will cool. He has wanted him for a year now. He was New England’s director of college scouting in 2003 when the Patriots drafted Samuel out of Central Florida.

Late last summer, when Samuel became expendable after the Eagles added cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (free agent) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (trade) to their secondary, the Falcons were interested. But at that point, Philly wanted at least a second-round draft pick in return,- and the Falcons were too close to the salary-cap ceiling to realistically do something.

A lot has changed. The Eagles are more desperate now. They might take a fifth-rounder just to get Samuel off the books. The calendar also affords the Falcons more time to make the numbers work, even if they’re only $1,656,559 under the $125,432,149 cap. Samuel is scheduled to earn $21.5 million over the next two seasons but he is open to restructuring his deal to make a trade happen. He also may be more accommodating for the Falcons than he was for Denver.

The Falcons have a number of players whose deals could be restructured. Most notable: fullback Ovie Mughelli ($3.733 million cap hit), who also could be cut or traded. Running back Michael Turner ($7 million cap hit), offensive tackle Sam Baker ($3.7 million) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux ($4.6 million) also are top candidates. (Dunta Robinson’s deal already was restructured.)

This move could dent the egos of Grimes and Robinson. But that can’t be a concern. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan likes using a number of defensive backs in his scheme. Some of the opposing quarterbacks on the team’s 2012 schedule also suggests five defensive backs might be the relative base: Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Michael Vick.

Samuel is 31, but he can still play. He turns an average area of the team into a strong one. He allows the Falcons to finally bang the gong in this quiet offseason. Now it’s just a matter of getting the deal done.

By Jeff Schultz

155 comments Add your comment

MattRyansBrain

April 24th, 2012
10:48 am

BamaGuy

April 24th, 2012
10:48 am

Stevie Spurrier

April 24th, 2012
10:48 am

Tana

April 24th, 2012
10:49 am

I can dig this.

Stevie Spurrier

April 24th, 2012
10:49 am

Could I pick your brain Matt, beings your first

Hankie Aron

April 24th, 2012
10:50 am

I would definately do it.

MattRyansBrain

April 24th, 2012
10:50 am

this is an either/or – if Falcons trade for Samuel, they will rescind the franchise tender to Brent Grimes – you cannnot have three corners on one team making $8million+. Falcons have too many other needs.

Also, it should be noted that Assante Samuel is 31 years old and the last time the Eagles traded an aging star (Donovan McNabb) – well, that did not work out too well for the Redskins – ask Mike Shanahan!

Eagles are good at trading guys just before their production sinks…..buyer beware.

dan

April 24th, 2012
10:51 am

Getter Done!

DCBravosFan

April 24th, 2012
10:55 am

This would be huge. Jeff, any idea which players are candidates for contract restructuring?

falconfan12

April 24th, 2012
10:56 am

Jeff, if the Falcons get Samuel, can they pull the franchise tag on Grimes? Or are they obligated to keep it unless Grimes consents to its removal?

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
10:57 am

DC BravosFan — I’d think Ovie Mughelli for starters.

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
10:59 am

FalconFan12 — Yes, the Falcons could pull the tag off Grimes but that would make him unrestricted and they’d lose him for nothing. They’re a long way from that happening, Would prefer to work out a deal.

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Smoothie

April 24th, 2012
11:01 am

Jeff, thanks for staying on top of this while DOL bores us with draft speculation.

Anyway, is it too late for TD to rescind the Franchise Tag on Grimes should he pull off this trade with Philly? IOW, does Grimey still have th same latitude to sign the tender at any time or is it now a matter of either holding out or working a multi-year deal?

Thanks for the clarification!!

Mark

April 24th, 2012
11:04 am

Hey Jeff, if we pick us Samuel, can we “untag” Grimes and let him walk? OR, could this possibly be a smoke screen to force Grimes to sign?

Jeff B

April 24th, 2012
11:05 am

Smoothie, not so harsh please! DOL has a blog post up on this as well.

Jeff B

April 24th, 2012
11:05 am

@Mark – you’re question was already answered above.

Smoothie

April 24th, 2012
11:05 am

“Eagles are good at trading guys just before their production sinks…..buyer beware.”

Hahaha, Iggles are also good at overpaying for Free Agents and assembling “Dream Teams” that become, ahem, Cream Dreams. Samuel can still play, but Philly has too much committed to younger corners. I could totally see TD getting Grimes to sign for a lot less with more guaranteed money and 5 years. Or he’ll just dump him for more picks.

Mark

April 24th, 2012
11:05 am

Ovie and Baker would open up about 7mil+ in cap space

Larry

April 24th, 2012
11:06 am

Anytime before his signs it, you can rescind the franchise offer to Grimes thus immediately making him an unrestricted free agent and free to negoiate with any team.

Mark

April 24th, 2012
11:06 am

Jeff B – just saw this…thanks

Jeff B

April 24th, 2012
11:07 am

Schultz, insightful article, as always… this would be a huge addition for the Falcons. Salary cap is obviously a hurdle, but I think it can be worked out. Look at all the crazy contract structures the Saints have been handing out… why don’t we give him a similar, backloaded deal?

matt r

April 24th, 2012
11:08 am

I like the idea of 3 good CBs (if we can consider Dunta good) but I’m always weary of the guy another team is trying to dump. They must have their reasons.

Smoothie

April 24th, 2012
11:08 am

Jeff B, took him long enough, was reported by Glazer and Schefter only 2-3 hours ago. He’s always slow (and reluctant) to the party and then claims it’s simply “responsible” journalism. Ha! At the ajc?? Other than Schultz and a couple others like Tim Tucker, ajc is severely lacking in many regards. DOL is not close to Wyche.

falconsrus

April 24th, 2012
11:11 am

Mark is on the mark

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
11:13 am

Folks, wouldn’t anticipate anything along lines of Grimes’ tag being rescinded. In fact, we may be close to some “news.” Stay tuned.

Stirg d'Nahsif

April 24th, 2012
11:15 am

Thomas Dimitroff for president…

tgueboy

April 24th, 2012
11:16 am

lets do it..whats the hold up?

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
11:17 am

And like I said above, guess what? Brent Grimes has just signed his contract tender, via Ledbetter. Post should be up soon (if not already) on his blog site.

Larry

April 24th, 2012
11:17 am

To keep both Samuel and Grimes, the following players are at risk of release and/or forced restructuring:

Turner: $,5000,000
Babineauz: $4,100,000
Mughelli: $3,000,000
Baker: $2,600,000
Nicholas: $2,300,000
Decoud: $1,400,000
Bierman: $1,100,000
Jerry: $ 845,000

MattRyansBrain

April 24th, 2012
11:19 am

some “news” eh, Jeff? sounds like you are intimating the Falcons are on verge of re-signing Grimes. Go ahead, “tease us” some more……

SimpleDawg

April 24th, 2012
11:20 am

Hope TD can make the deal.

Maybe the Little Man will come to his senses…..if not, lower his offer every week his sits out.

Larry

April 24th, 2012
11:21 am

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
11:17 am

“And like I said above, guess what? Brent Grimes has just signed his contract tender, via Ledbetter. Post should be up soon (if not already) on his blog site”

And thus this ridiculous $10,000,000.00 fully guaranteed just crippled this team further and likely ended the pursuit of Samuel.

Benjamin

April 24th, 2012
11:24 am

I would be most concerned with the investment as it pertains to the cap, but otherwise, it’d be a win for the Falcons…

Mellow ANG

April 24th, 2012
11:29 am

I would like to see this deal done, but it would be awesome to have Grimes and Samuel. I see Robinson as a disappointment, as a Falcon, so far.

Grimes just signed his Tenure!!!!!!

Glenn

April 24th, 2012
11:29 am

Fine I’ll take a stab . I bet Asante refuses to restructure his contract & gets waived . Then Asante signs with the highest bidder . Well thats how I would play it if I were him .

MattRyansBrain

April 24th, 2012
11:32 am

so now that Grimes signed his tender – does this trade rumor go away – was this just a ploy by Falcons to plant this story? all i know is this – no coincidence that this rumor and Grimes signing his franchise tender all happened in the same day. What say you Schultzie?

rollo lawson

April 24th, 2012
11:43 am

This would make no sense whatsoever. Contrary to popular belief, with Grimes in the fold, the Falcons have some good, young talent at CB. The problem with this defense is pass rush and Van Gorder’s super vanilla defensive scheme. The team addressed part of the problem when Van Gorder left. I suggest the Falcons draft a big-body NT to provide push up the middle on passing downs and clog the middle on run plays. I saw too many times last year where our DTs got no penetration up the middle. Abraham would provide pressure off the edge, and the qb would either step up in the pocket and complete a pass or take off and gain chunks of yardage (See Giants playoff game). NT and LT should be Dimitroffs priority early on in the draft.

Mike

April 24th, 2012
11:43 am

i think there is something else happening, I think that Brent might be traded since it was way too concidence on the same day that this rumor comes out, that he signed his tender

slydog

April 24th, 2012
11:52 am

@MattRyansBrain

Good point about the Eagles. But Samuel would still be an upgrade over what we have now. There are no ball hawks in the secondary and not one of our DB’s are feared by opposing DB. Samuel is not perfect or even one of the top 5 players at his position anymore, but he at least gives opposing QB’s something to think about when throwing in Samuel’s direction. The Falcons do not have the “fear” or the “think about it” factor anywhere on defense.

slydog

April 24th, 2012
11:53 am

Case in point: Charles Woodson was no spring chicken when he was acquired by the Packers, but his presence sure was felt for about 3 seasons.

Well it's official

April 24th, 2012
11:57 am

Grimes is not worth $10 million. Poor decision by TD and the Falcons

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
11:58 am

MattRyansBrain — Falcons’ interest in Asante Samuel is legitimate.

Frontman

April 24th, 2012
11:59 am

The Falcons would have to get VERY creative with the cap to fit Samuel in.
Hey, rollo…
By “LT”, do you mean “left tackle” or “Lawrence Taylor”?

FalconsinPA

April 24th, 2012
11:59 am

I will say this- living here in Philly and watching the Eagles- this guy is all about “ME” first. When his comments were after they signed and traded for the 2 said CB’s “I guess I’ll take my talent to where I’m wanted” and will not come up an tackle anyone. I hope they reconsider these talks. The honeymoon will be over before it starts- Oh and another comment of his was at the end of the season- “I don’t care what they do as long as I get my paycheck on Tuesday” Don’t need this guy in the lockeroom.

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
12:00 pm

Rollo Lawson — You make some good points but I can tell you that Nolan likes having a lot of good DBs at his disposal. And if you can get a proven guy like Samuel for cheap, why not do it?

Jeff Schultz

April 24th, 2012
12:00 pm

Well it’s official — The fact Grimes signed his contract tender doesn’t mean he’ll play under that contract. It’s just a “temp” contract.

rollo lawson

April 24th, 2012
12:06 pm

I get what you’re saying Jeff. I’d rather have a defensive line that puts pressure on the QB. The Giants secondary is good, but their pass rush is excellent!! Lets invest in a NT.

FalconsinPA

April 24th, 2012
12:10 pm

I will say too that Asante is not going to re-structure his contract. So the Falcons will almost have to cut or re-structure with someone else to make it happen. And the 2 CB’s the Eagles got will only make $1M and $950K next year compared to AS 5.9 million- so they don’t have a lot tied up in the young guys- fact is ALL their secondary combined will be less than what AS will make in 2012.

FalconsinPA

April 24th, 2012
12:12 pm

@Slydog- he got burned more than any other Fleagle DB last year as good QB’s got him to jump routes all season and burned him every time.