Eagles brass evasive on Nnamdi Asomugha's future

Nnamdi Asomugha's tenure with the Eagles has been a disappointing one. Last seaon the former Pro Bowl cornerback allowed a passer rating of 120.6 on balls thrown in his direction. YONG KIM / Staff
Nnamdi Asomugha's tenure with the Eagles has been a disappointing one. Last seaon the former Pro Bowl cornerback allowed a passer rating of 120.6 on balls thrown in his direction. YONG KIM / Staff
Posted: February 22, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS - Conclusions should not be drawn from Chip Kelly's and Howie Roseman's lukewarm endorsement of Nnamdi Asomugha on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

Neither the Eagles coach nor the general manager came out and said he had no interest in keeping the 31-year-old cornerback - even at his $15.5 million salary. But the Eagles' brain trust - especially Kelly, who has already lavished praise on certain players - gave little indication that Asomugha will be part of the team's plans moving forward.

Kelly, who said he had finished watching tape of the Eagles from last season, was asked what he thought of Asomugha after viewing the cornerback's segment of plays.

"I think Nnamdi has a skill set that can play football," Kelly said.

Kelly danced around other attempts to pin down his opinion of Asomugha. The coach did point out that he could not form final decisions because he did not always know the context of every play. Whether the Eagles bring Asomugha back or not - and they would have to pay a $4 million guaranteed chunk of the former Pro Bowler's price tag if they were to release him - it appears all but certain that they won't bring him back at such a lofty number.

"I'm not a money guy, so I don't look at guys [that way]," Kelly said. "When I watch film, I'm just trying to look at what they can do. . . . Can a guy transition? Can he get in and out of breaks? Can he make plays on the ball? Can he tackle?"

Even an optimist would say that Asomugha struggled last season. He did have his moments, including shutting down Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson for most of an October game. But his physical skills - in particular, his closing speed - appeared to be diminishing in his 10th NFL season.

Roseman - the Eagles' "money guy" - was asked if he could keep Asomugha at his current salary.

"We've got to go through all the decisions for every player on our roster," Roseman said. "We want to make sure whenever we're signing players, whenever we're talking about players financially, it fits in our overall cap structure and what we're trying to do."

Roseman and Asomugha's agent, Ben Dogra, are scheduled to meet Friday at 9:30 a.m., according to an NFL source. The general manager will sit down with many player representatives this week. But no other Eagles player is slated to make as much as Asomugha or will likely be asked to take as significant a pay cut.

That is, if the Eagles even want Asomugha back. But $4 million is a lot to pay a player who isn't on the roster.

The Eagles are thin at cornerback, especially if Asomugha is let go and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie leaves. The Eagles have decided not to place their franchise tag on Rodgers-Cromartie, whose contract expires March 12. They could agree to a new deal before that date, but it is likely that the 26-year-old will become a free agent.

After those two are Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, and Brandon Hughes. Boykin could bump outside but likely will remain as the slot cornerback. Marsh and Hughes could not supplant the struggling starters in 2012.

"There aren't as many players there as we want to bring to camp, so obviously you have to bolster that," Kelly said. "Our numbers are a little short on the back end."

Aside from Rodgers-Cromartie, the Jaguars' Derek Cox and the Dolphins' Sean Smith are free-agent options. The draft is projected to have great depth at cornerback, but no prospect might be worthy of the fourth overall pick.

Some mock drafts had Alabama's Dee Milliner slotted to the Eagles. He reportedly will undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder after the combine.

Adding to the unrest in the secondary is a safety corps that was just as bad in 2012. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman could be released or lose their starting spots. Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis have a grace period if they want to completely make over the defensive backfield.

Quarterbacks had great success throwing at Asomugha last season. Their passer rating when targeting the cornerback was 120.6, according to Pro Football Focus. He was targeted 66 times and allowed 44 catches for 698 yards and five touchdowns.

Asomugha did have one interception. The numbers aren't looking good for the cornerback.

Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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