Jeff McLane, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 1:49 AM
INDIANAPOLIS - Like Michael Vick, there once was a time when it seemed implausible that Nnamdi Asomugha would play for the 2013 Eagles.
The former all-pro cornerback, with even the most positive of reviews, has been average since the Eagles signed him to a five-year, $60 million contract in July of 2011.
Asomugha, in the end, will make considerably less than that number when the Eagles finally decide to release him. But a parting of ways may have to wait a year because the contract that keeps taking will take at least another $4 million from Jeffrey Lurie's coffers.
Four million of Asomugha's $15.5 million salary for 2013 is guaranteed. Unlike Vick, however, there isn't offsetting language built into the contract that would allow the Eagles to dump the 31-year-old and not have to pay the guaranteed figure should another team pick him up.
The Eagles wanted Vick, who renegotiated his contract, to return at the right amount. If they bring Asomugha back, it won't be because they were able to rework his deal, although that would certainly play a part in the decision. It would be because general manager Howie Roseman negotiated a bad deal in the first place.
Forget that Asomugha has failed to play anywhere near the level he played in Oakland at approximately $22 million. He may earn an additional $4 million - all of which would count against the Eagles' salary cap - without even playing a down for the Eagles this season.
Many fans would say that's a small price to pay to rid the team of Asomugha. The Eagles have about $25 million in cap space. But with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie expected to become a free agent and the rest of the roster devoid of young, talented cornerbacks, Asomugha at, say, $5 or $6 million may be the Eagles' best option.
Even though Roseman met with Asomugha's agent, Ben Dogra, for about an hour Friday morning here at the NFL scouting combine, nothing of significance came out of the meeting.
The Eagles want Asomugha to restructure his contract and want to see how low Dogra is willing to go before they make a final decision. Asomugha, on the other hand, must decide between accepting a significant pay cut and taking his chances on the open market.
And even if he agrees to the Eagles' offer, there is no guarantee they'll keep him. But $4 million plus the proration from his $9 million signing bonus is a lot of dead money for the Eagles to accept.
Roseman and coach Chip Kelly gave lukewarm endorsements of Asomugha on Thursday.
"I think Nnamdi has a skill set [dramatic pause] that can play football," Kelly said.
That skill set does not involve playing off the line of scrimmage and in a zone defense. There aren't many NFL coordinators who allow their cornerbacks to play almost exclusively man-to-man defense.
Kelly and new defensive coordinator Bill Davis have yet to speak in specific terms about scheme. Most of the attention has focused on the Eagles' likely move to a hybrid defense that acts much like a 3-4 front. But what kind of corners do they envision in their defense?
The Eagles in recent years made an effort to sign and draft taller cornerbacks like Asomugha (6-foot-2), Rodgers-Cromartie (6-2) and Curtis Marsh (6-foot) who like to play man-press defense. Perhaps Kelly and Davis prefer compact corners who can close space in milliseconds.
That could open up the possibility of moving the 5-foot-9 Brandon Boykin from the slot to the outside. Rodgers-Cromartie is as fast as any corner in the NFL. But he suffered through lapses in which he made poor reads and was disinterested in tackling last season.
Roseman had told Rodgers-Cromartie's agent, Eugene Parker, that he would contact him about meeting here this week, but as of Friday afternoon, the GM had yet to reach out. The Eagles have until March 12 to work out a new deal with Rodgers-Cromartie before he hits the open market.
The free-agent class of cornerbacks is solid, led by the Jaguars' Derek Cox and the Dolphins' Sean Smith. The 26-year-old Rodgers-Cromartie may not be as hot a commodity.
He and Asomugha were part of a defense that allowed a franchise-worst 33 passing touchdowns in 2012. There was always the chance that neither would be back. But one isn't owed a dime and the other is owed at least 40 million dimes, even though there may be 4 million reasons to release Asomugha.
Contact Jeff McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.
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