Eagles add Nnamdi Asomugha in a shocker

Posted: July 29, 2011

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Eagles are all in.

In a stunning move Friday, the team agreed with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a five-year, $60 million contract, landing the best free agent on the market and one of the best players in football.

With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added Thursday to join four-time Pro Bowler Asante Samuel on the roster, the Eagles boast the best collection of cornerback talent in the NFL.

Add in defensive end Jason Babin, whose agreement was also officially announced Friday, and the Eagles have quickly assembled the talent to field a top-flight defense to match their explosive offense.

The moves back up the team's promise to be aggressive in free agency. They are also a clear sign of coach Andy Reid's commitment to win big and win now as he enters his 13th season in Philadelphia.

"Like everything else, it's been fast and furious," Reid said at the team's training-camp site. Looking over the team's free-agent spending spree, he said with typical understatement, "It's a pretty good list."

On Twitter, guard Todd Herremans wrote simply: *BOOM*

But the acquisition of two talented cornerbacks immediately raised questions about the future of Samuel, who until Friday was the team's best defensive player.

General manager Howie Roseman was evasive when asked how the team would handle the three corners.

"It's always been a priority position for us, corners and pass rushers on defense. We felt last year in situations where maybe we got a little shorthanded, and we thought it was a place that we wanted to go heavy in," Roseman said.

Still, it's easy to wonder how the team can manage the egos and paychecks of three corners, all of whom have been Pro Bowlers. It seems unlikely that Samuel would accept a diminished role.

A league source with knowledge of the team's plans said the Eagles plan to keep all three, but that they would be open to a trade if they got a "fantastic" offer.

Samuel, 30, has not reported to training camp. The team has said he has been excused for personal reasons. He and his agent did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

To land Asomugha, who turned 30 earlier this month, the Eagles broke with their tradition of shying away from players who have hit that age and gave him $25 million in guarantees. In doing so, they landed a big, talented, four-time all pro - including each of the last three years - who is also praised for his charitable work.

"It was a unique opportunity to get a unique player," Roseman said.

The Eagles badly needed an upgrade at cornerback, but it seemed they were out of the Asomugha sweepstakes once they acquired the 25-year-old Rodgers-Cromartie in Thursday's Kevin Kolb trade. But while public speculation focused on the Jets, Texans and Cowboys, the Eagles were in touch with Asomugha's representatives from the start of free agency.

Talks heated up Thursday, and Roseman finalized the deal from a Lehigh dorm Friday.

The team is under the salary cap, Roseman said, but he conceded that in going with so much star power at cornerback and defensive end - the two defensive positions the team values most - they may have to go lighter elsewhere. The Eagles are extremely young at safety and linebacker.

Babin, whose agreement was expected but was officially announced Friday, was targeted because he is familiar with the Eagles and especially defensive line coach Jim Washburn, Roseman said. Washburn coached Babin in Tennessee last year.

The Eagles also announced the signing of two other veteran free agents, wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, a former Raider who can also return punts, and tight end Donald Lee, who was with the Packers in 2010.

But Asomugha is the prize.

"His priority was to go to a place where he was going to compete for a world championship, and we think that's why we had a shot," Roseman said.

It's a goal the Eagles are making bold moves to achieve.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

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