The Atlanta Falcons traded for Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles for only a 7th round pick. That is peanuts for a player as good as Samuel. The Falcons now have to pick up his newly re-structured 3-year, $18.5 million contract. Look at that picture that is above, and you can see that he is a ball-hawk who makes big plays no matter where the quarterback throws the ball.
The Falcons defense gets better with him on the team. Asante Samuel will be able to jam opponents receivers with his physical style of play, and then play on the ball. He is very good at reading the quarterbacks eyes and dissecting the play and can come up and play the run as well. Samuel is a fine player. He and Dunta Robinson will cover the outside receivers in whatever scheme the Falcons decide to run, and I think there is little doubt that Brent Grimes, our veteran player who recently signed his franchise tender, will be asked the play the nickel corner position. I think that this is a very wise way to line up the corners and play to the strengths of each of them. I believe that Grimes will thrive as a nickel corner. The Falcons have one of the finest cornerback corps in the NFL, and rival Green Bay’s group of Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, and Sam Shields. The Falcon’s cornerback corps is also the most expensive.
After signing his new contract, Samuel’s contract over 3 years is going to be $18M, which averages out to about $6M a year. Dunta Robinson is due $6.4M according to figures that I am privy to, and we all know that after signing his franchise tag Brent Grimes will make $10.2M in 2012. These numbers are potentially catastrophic for the Falcon’s salary cap situation. As of right now, those three players alone are going to cost the Falcons about $22 Million in 2012. That is a significant amount of money, and is not financially possible right now. Before the trade, the Falcons were only $1.7 M under the salary cap. This move puts them at about $4M OVER. A team cannot possibly be over the salary cap. It is against NFL rules. Just ask the Redskins and Cowboys.
Here are three things that we will see to reduce the money wrapped up in corners, or help the Falcons overall situation:
1. Brent Grimes will be signed to a long term deal. There is no way that the Falcons keep Grimes at his current price. It is just too expensive. I think that in the next month or so, the Falcons will sign Grimes long-term, and bring down his cap number. A contract in the neighborhood of $6 million a year would be about right for Grimes, and if the Falcons could get Grimes number reduced $4Million, it would put the Falcons under the salary cap, and back on the good side of Roger Goodell.
2. The Falcons cut Dunta Robinson after the 2012 season. Lets face it, Robinson has been a dismal failure as a free-agency signing. He was very good in Houston, but probably not quite as good as his contract. Now he absolutely not worth his contract. The Falcons could insert almost any corner to play the outside receiver and not feel much in the loss of Robinson. Robinson would also cost the Falcon $9M in 2013, and that is a ridiculous number. Freeing up cap space in 2013 will ultimately prevail, and Robinson will get the axe.
3. Other Falcons will get cut. Going into free-agency, I thought the Falcons were going to sign a Left Tackle. I thought that they would release both Sam Baker and Ovie Mughelli, thereby freeing up around $6M in cap space. They didn’t release either, and also did not sign a LT. As a result, we will certainly hold onto Baker for the entirety of the 2012 season, but Mughelli is a still an option to release. As much as it pains me to think about releasing as solid a player and human being as him, it makes sense for the greater good of the team to release him. Right now he represents a $3M figure against the Falcons salary cap, and I’m not sure any Fullback is worth that much. With the dire straights that Atlanta’s cap situation is in, Mughelli would certainly be a casualty.
The loss of a 7th round draft pick is almost inconsequential. The greater consequences come in the form of future salary cap problems. That being said, there are some very good repercussions. Aside from the obvious, the Falcons will not have to address the corner position in the draft for the next couple years. They are loaded with talented players, in their prime at the position. At this point, the defensive secondary is the least of the Falcon’s worries. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Mike Smith will use all their picks in the next two drafts to accomplish two things-1- Protecting Matt Ryan and 2. Acquiring Pass-rushers. If they can solidify one line in this draft, and the other line in the next, the Falcons will be a tremendous team to behold indeed.