With Asante Samuel expected to be dealt in the coming weeks, a common question being asked is: What exactly should he be worth?
Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com reported yesterday that the Eagles were seeking a third-round pick for Samuel. But considering the top free-agent cornerbacks on the market - Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr - got $24M and $25.5M guaranteed, respectively, should the Birds be looking to get more?
We've been over the many issues with dealing Samuel several times in this space. He's 31, due $9.5M in 2012 and is best utilized in a specific system.
According to Football Outsiders, though, Samuel grades out as an elite player if he's put in the right role.
Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders recently released the site's cornerback charting stats, and the numbers reflect a very strong season for Samuel in 2011. Among players who were targeted at least 40 times, Samuel allowed 4.4 yards per pass, third-best in the league.
Samuel's success rate - defined as the percentage of passes that don't manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down - was 67 percent, which also ranked third.
And Samuel allowed 2.0 YAC on average, second-best. By all statistical accounts, he had a great year.
Most of you know I really appreciate the work Football Outsiders does, and I find a lot of value in the charting numbers. But in Samuel's case, I don't think the stats tell the whole story.
I went back and looked at my Man Up write-ups from last year. For the most part, Samuel did a decent job in coverage. But he also got lucky quite a bit.
In the first matchup against the Giants, Samuel got beat badly by Victor Cruz on a double move, but Eli Manning overthrew his receiver on what easily could have been a 50-yard completion.
Against the Bears, Samuel was beat by Roy Williams on what would have been a 20-yard gain, but Jay Cutler threw behind his receiver. Later, Devin Hester beat Samuel for what could have been a 45-yard gain, but Cutler underthrew him (to Samuel's credit, he recovered nicely).
Larry Fitzgerald beat Samuel with a double move, but John Skelton was off-target with his throw. And Samuel also likely had a hand in Fitzgerald's 37-yard catch late in that game, although he wasn't targeted specifically.
I have no way to prove that Samuel was luckier than other cornerbacks. And the point here is not to pick on him or poke holes in his game. For the most part, when quarterbacks threw Samuel's way last year, they didn't have a lot of success. And in 2010, the charting numbers on him were even more impressive (3.2 yards per pass, 78 percent sucess rate). But it's important to note that a couple plays going differently could have significantly changed those overall numbers.
It's also worth looking at how often cornerbacks threw at Samuel, compared to Nnamdi Asomugha. The first column below shows number of pass plays each guy was on the field for, courtesy of Pro Football Focus. The second column shows number of targets, per Football Outsiders. And the third column is the percentage of plays each guy was targeted when in coverage.
Samuel's targets went from 36 in 2010 to 61 in 2011, which of course makes sense since Asomugha was on the other side instead of Dimitri Patterson. When Samuel was in coverage on passing downs, he was targeted 12.6 percent of the time. Asomugha was targeted 6.3 percent of the time.
Opposing quarterbacks had success when they threw at Asomugha, averaging 9.0 yards per pass, the worst mark of any Eagles cornerback, but they still stayed away from him quite a bit. In Asomugha's final year with the Raiders, he was targeted 7.0 percent of the time he was in coverage. Quarterbacks actually threw at him less in 2011. While he clearly did not meet expectations last season, Asomugha still deserves some credit for the job he did when quarterbacks didn't throw at him.
In run support, none of the Eagles cornerbacks gave them much. And overall, Joselio Hanson was the only one who proved to be a consistent tackler. Samuel has never been a physical player, although he had his moments last season (specifically in that Dolphins game).
As for where he'll end up, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports that the Titans' interest is lukewarm at best and adds that there's no way the team would give up a conditional third-round pick for him. The Lions have no interest, according to Mike O'Hara of FoxSports.com We'll find out what the league thinks of Samuel's value in the coming weeks.
I also posted on a report that the Eagles will host Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins.