August 1, 2011

All your corners are belong to us.

Upon hearing that the Philadelphia Eagles had signed Nnamdi Asomugha, the first thing I thought of was Cliff Lee.

When the Philadelphia Phillies traded for Roy Halladay in December of 2009, there was much rejoicing. "Three aces," everyone thought. "No one will be able to withstand Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels in the postseason."

But then news trickled out that Lee had been dealt to Seattle, partly to "restock the cupboard" with prospects and partly to save a little bit of money.

In moving Lee, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. bet that two aces would be enough. He was wrong, and while he corrected that error in judgment by acquiring Roy Oswalt (and bringing Lee back in the offseason), it took a lot of time and more than a little luck to put it all back together.

And that's where Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and Joe Banner are at now. Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie make it three Pro Bowl-caliber cornerbacks on the Eagles roster, but you can only start two. Will the Eagles trade Asante Samuel, or will they sit back and enjoy the mess of talent they've assembled in the defensive backfield?

This comprehensive blog post from's Sheil Kapadia outlines the value in keeping Samuel. According to Kapadia (and Football Outsiders):
  • The Eagles had to cover three or more receivers 47% of the time in 2010.
  • The Green Bay Packers played with three or more receivers 60% of the time.
So there should be opportunities to play three top corners, especially on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. And the additions of Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins, under the the tutelage of fiery Jim Washburn, should increase the pressure on opposing quarterbacks and make the secondary's job even easier. A trio of studs would clean up back there.

Mostly, I think it's tough to end up with an embarrassment of riches at one position -- especially a key one -- and then revert back to just "very good." Amaro tried to win and plan for the future by swapping out Lee for Halladay; it blew up in his face. Do Reid and Roseman want to risk making the same mistake?

A lot can happen over the course of 16 NFL games, and the Eagles would be wise to start this march to the Super Bowl with an abundance of ammunition. You never know when you're gonna need it.

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