It’s rare to find an elite cornerback in free agency. If you do find one, it’s usually because he has character issues or he can’t stay healthy. Normally, if you want a premier cornerback, you either have to draft and develop him or make a trade to acquire him.
There are several reasons why this position is so hard to upgrade over night. It’s the toughest position to play on the defense and you can’t ever have enough of them. Cornerbacks have to react and mirror the some of the fastest men in the world, all while not making too much contact with them. Last season Dunta Robinson and Antonio Cromartie were the gold standard for available cornerbacks. Robinson had injury concerns and Cromartie is labeled with the character tag.
When football operations resume, some team will be able to drastically upgrade their secondary by adding one of the top two cornerbacks in the NFL. While a team will have to pay a lofty price tag for Nnamdi’s services, they won’t have to trade for him in addition like the Broncos did, to acquire the last top-notch available cornerback, in Champ Bailey. At the time, Denver had to give up their franchise running back, Clinton Portis, who had ran for over 1,500 yards in both of his first two seasons, in addition to handing out a monster contract. Nnamdi doesn’t bring any baggage with him either. He contributes to multiple charities with a focus on education and bettering the lives of orphans and widows. Asomugha also does a lot of great work in Nigeria. It’s a no brainer for any team to break the bank for this guy. If Albert Haynesworth can bring a $100 million contract, then teams won’t bat an eye at signing Nnamdi. A case could be made at all 32 teams attempting to sign Nnamdi but I’ll try and narrow it down to the 10 teams that I believe make the most sense.
The criteria that I’m looking for in the teams that will be on this list are teams that are only a position or two away from making a championship run, willing to pay, value character guys, and need leadership in the secondary or on the team. These 10 teams might not have all 4 characteristics that I listed but they should have at least 3. Some teams will be ruled out for paying high price tags in the last few years, like the Bears with Julius Peppers. Other teams won’t make the list because the team is too far away from contention, like the Jaguars. With that said, here are the top 10 teams, starting at 10 and working to number 1.
10) New York Jets - Why not? I love watching great football and maybe this is just my curiosity and wanting to see the two best cornerbacks, on the field at the same time, in a meaningful game. Obviously the deal would be contingent on not resigning Antonio Cromartie. I don’t think the Jets would have a problem with that. They would be relieving themselves from a guy that had to rework his contract to get upfront money to handle child support cases for his 9 kids. The Jets would be replacing him with a guy that helps orphans. Not to mention that Cromartie has obvious weaknesses in his game, like covering the slant pass. Rex Ryan loves his defense and if he could have the two best corners in the game, I believe that he would have to at least throw is hat in the ring. Kyle Wilson would also benefit from some of the greatest on the job training ever. It would make for some excellent TV!
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - He would get exposure in the largest media market, not only for himself, but for the causes he believes in as well. He’s competitive by nature and would love finally being challenged in a game as teams wouldn’t be able to throw away from him, like they did in Oakland. He would finally play on a contender. Last season was the first time that the Raiders had more than 5 wins in a season, since Asomugha was drafted in 2003. Oakland was 8-8 in 2010. His addition would make the Jets a Super Bowl favorite in 2011.
9) Washington Redskins - Dan Snyder doesn’t mind paying for talent. He usually spends his money unwisely though (Albert Haynesworth). Carlos Rogers doesn’t seem to want any part of returning to D.C. and Asomugha played with DeAngelo Hall in Oakland. The two together could help sure up the Redskins secondary. Mike Shanahan knows how talented Asomugha is from facing him twice a season while in Denver. It also doesn’t hurt that if Washington adds him, it will prevent division foes like Philadelphia and Dallas from signing him. I don’t think that Shanahan wants to go back to facing Asomugha twice a year again.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - Asomugha was upset with the way “management” handled things in Oakland. He especially didn’t appreciate the way that DeAngelo Hall was given up on after only 8 games. He’ll be excited to go to an organization that is willing to put pieces around him that will help him succeed. I think he’ll have confidence in Shanahan / Snyder shaping of the franchise, especially after leaving Al Davis.
8) New Orleans Saints - The travesty that happened in the playoffs, when Marshawn Lynch made every member of the defense miss twice, is one of the reasons that New Orleans will go after Asomugha. He can bring veteran leadership to a secondary that needs it. The Saints secondary fell off completely without Darren Sharper. Patrick Robinson and Johnny Patrick need to be mentored by Asomugha and not Randall Gay or Tracy Porter. The Saints aren’t too far off from the form that got them to their first Super Bowl championship. The key weakness is the secondary.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - Asomugha was born in Lafayette, Louisiana but was raised in Los Angeles. I don’t know if he still has ties to Louisiana or New Orleans specifically, but it may factor into the decision. Drew Brees could also help influence Asomugha in heading to New Orleans.Brees runs one of the most high-powered offenses and could sell Asomugha on the fact that he could be the missing piece that will help them repeat what they did a few years ago.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - After taking their share of backlash for acquiring players with character issues, the Bucs organization has come out and said that this is a myth and that they don’t target those players. Actions speak louder than words and they put those actions into play in the latest draft. For the most part they avoided character flawed guys. Now they could further that notion by cutting Aqib Talib, the poster boy for players with issues on Tampa’s roster. Not only could they drop Talib but they could pick up a better player, with no off the field concerns. The team would get better and it’ll silence the critics, including myself, that believe the Bucs were headed down the path of the Cowboys and Bengals from a few years ago. Ronde Barber doesn’t have much time left, so the team needs to find two starters.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - It makes more sense for the Bucs then Asomugha but if they empty the bank, Nnamdi may follow the yellow brick road made of gold Tampa. He may enjoy the challenge of facing Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton in 6 games per year, but in the end, if he goes to Tampa, it will be because they offered the most money.
6) Baltimore Ravens - Baltimore is a lot closer the people outside of Baltimore realize. They had one glaring weakness in 2010 and that was pass defense. They couldn’t stop anyone through the air. The selection of Jimmy Smith was a great draft pick but Josh Wilson and Fabian Washington are free agents and Domonique Foxsworth, Ladarius Webb and Chykie Brown are the only options left. Asomugha could be the missing piece that puts this team over the edge. Having Asomugha and Ed Reed in the same secondary, would be something to watch. It couldn’t hurt the advancement of Jimmy Smith on and off the field, to have a guy like Asomugha around, helping to guide his career.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - I believe he would enjoy the role of mentoring Jimmy Smith. Playing with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed seems as a natural fit. He wouldn’t have to be the primary focus and for the first time in his career, he would have the luxury to roam around and take more chances, with Reed protecting center field. Once again, he will realize how close the Ravens are to a title.
5) St Louis Rams - I realize that one of the qualifying factors for this list is to be a title contender. That might sound far-fetched for the Rams but is it really? We all know that anything is possible when a team from this division makes it to playoffs. Arizona went to the Super Bowl a few years ago and Seattle went on a mini playoff run last season after qualifying with a 7-9 record. St Louis has found their franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford and could be on the verge of taking control of this division but they’re horrific at the cornerback position. They didn’t upgrade the position in the draft, so they must have an obvious goal of getting better there, via free agency. Why not go for the best? The Rams will benefit even more, from having one of the top cornerbacks due to the fact that their three divisional foes don’t have a clear cut starting quarterback.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - He could view it as an instant contender, with the Rams playing in the weakest division in football and should be on a playoff contender each year. The Rams also do play in the West division and will play several games on the West coast every year. It keeps him closer to his home. If the Rams do relocate to Los Angeles, it would be a perfect fit for him. It’s where he was raised and he plans on going into acting after his playing career.
4) Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are another team suffering at the hands of their cornerback. They have a tremendous amount of talent on defense and adding Asomugha to start opposite of Terrance Newman could be the last missing piece to the puzzle. They have a new defensive coordinator that will be looking for a veteran cornerback come free agency time. It might be worth noting that the Cowboys new DC, is Rob Ryan, who was also the defensive coordinator in Oakland for 5 years, where Asomugha was his premier defensive talent. Ryan will definitely make a run at Asomugha and it would just be the icing on the cake to steal him away from his brother in New York, and divisional rivals Washington and Philly.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - Asomugha has never played on a defense with anything close to the talent that Dallas has. He’ll be comfortable playing for Rob Ryan again and know what to expect going into a new environment. On paper, it would be hard to bet against a Dallas team with Asomugha protecting the back end.
3) Detroit Lions - The Lions had to go into the draft with cornerback as one of their top priorities, but when Nick Fairley fell into their lap, they couldn’t resist pairing him with Ndamukong Suh. Jim Schwartz is attempting to build one of the more fearful defenses in the league, like what he had in Tennessee. The main place he needs improvement is the cornerback position. Nnamdi would not only improve play by being there but he would be an integral part in improving the play of Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith, both of who Schwartz really likes, but feels they need to improve. Asomugha will bring that player / coach feel to the position. Detroit will need Asomugha if they want to overtake Green Bay in the division.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - Asomugha has to look at the front four of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Suh, Fairley, and Cliff Avril (if resigned) and just get excited about playing behind them. With the pressure this defensive line will bring, Nnamdi will be free to over reach and attempt to make special plays. He doesn’t have to play safe in Detroit. In Oakland, he wasn’t free to come unleashed in the defense.
2) Houston Texans - The Texans usually don’t make a big splash in free agency. They place a tremendous value on character and this narrows down their target free agents immensely. They wouldn’t go after Antonio Cromartie last season, even though they need him, because of the character concerns. The Texans have the youngest secondary in football and they need a leader that will come in there and lead by example. Houston would be willing to pay if they had the perfect player and Asomugha is the ideal player for their situation. He’s high character, he’s a leader, and he’ll be able to teach the younger guys on the roster all the little ins and outs of the position. They have a lot of talent at the position but no one to lead. With the front seven looking stacked, the secondary is the glaring hole on the team.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - He has a good friend in Andre Johnson who has been trying to convince him to come play in Houston. He can see the talent and youth at the position and realizes how good the defense can be. Asomugha would have stars like Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing all playing in front of him and making his job easier. The Texans are a veteran cornerback away from making a playoff push. The AFC South is down with Tennessee and Jacksonville both drafting their quarterbacks of the future this year and Peyton Manning is now 35 for the Colts.
1) Philadelphia Eagles - Andy Reid doesn’t care about the NFC championship game. He’s been the head coach of the Eagles for 5 of those but hasn’t won a single Super Bowl. He knows how close they were last season and Asomugha could start opposite of Asante Samuel. The pairing of Samuel and Asomugha would be the best duo of starting cornerbacks in the NFL. Asomugha knows that he should be enough to get this team back to the Super Bowl. They already have all the other pieces, adding a shutdown corner to go with a ball hawk corner, would be hard to beat. Philly is the third team from the NFC East that I have in the Top 10 teams after Asomugha. Getting a player like Asomugha over one of your rivals is a tremendous flip on the talent scale.
Why it makes sense for Nnamdi - He goes to a team on the verge of a title. He’ll play for a team that has a solid starter at the opposite corner, so he’ll have more attempts thrown at him. I don’t know if it matters to him but he’ll be on TV about a 100 times more because it seems that the NFC East has almost every primetime game.
I don’t think that the biggest contract offer will reel Asomugha in. He doesn’t strike me as that type of guy. It’s going to be a mix factors that convinces him to sign the dotted line. He’ll get paid but he will end up with a contender. If the team that he believes is the best fit for him and that has the best opportunity to win the big game, offers him a little less, he’ll still sign on with them. I’ll leave you with a few wild card teams. Steelers, Patriots, and Chargers.
Pittsburgh usually doesn’t spend big money on big name free agents but Nnamdi isn’t your normal free agent. Also, the Packers destroyed the Steelers through the air in the Super Bowl. Nnamdi may have been the factor that would have given Pittsburgh another talent.
New England got a draft steal in Ras-I Dowling and they resigned Leigh Bodden last season to go with stellar rookie, Devin McCourty. They still may go after Asomugha, just because Bill Belichek knows what type of player Nnamdi is.
San Diego can’t get over the hump in the playoffs. Even though the cornerbacks aren’t the problem, if their front office thinks that Asomugha finally gets this team to the Super Bowl, then they’ll pay him the money. They would really appreciate having him in the playoffs when they face Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.
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Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock