Asante Samuel was willing to restructure his contract to play for the Atlanta Falcons.
”I wanted to be a Falcon, so we made it work,” Samuel said.
The Falcons gave up only a seventh-round draft pick Wednesday when they acquired the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Falcons announced the trade after Samuel agreed to restructure his contract to a three-year, $18.5 million deal. His contract with Philadelphia called for him to earn $9.9 million in 2012 and $11.4 million in 2013.
The Falcons were 10-6 last season and 13-3 in 2010, but lost their first playoff game each season.
”The Falcons already have an excellent team and excellent coaches and schemes and talent and all that good stuff,” Samuel said in a telephone interview. ”I’m just going to add to the bunch to get the one common goal.”
Samuel noted he’s already had a warm reception from Falcons fans on his Twitter account.
”I’m getting (followers) every second of the minute,” he said. ”It’s fun. Everybody is excited and pumped up. It feels like I’m a missing link, so we’ll see how this thing goes.”
The 31-year-old Samuel gives Atlanta a strong but high-priced trio at cornerback with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Grimes, who signed his franchise tag tender Tuesday, will make $10.262 million this season. Robinson will earn $6 million.
”Asante has established himself as a very productive player during his career,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. ”He is a proven player in this league and we feel that this move upgrades the talent of our roster and improves our football team.”
Dimitroff was New England’s director of scouting when the Patriots selected Samuel in the fourth round in 2003. Samuel set a career high with 10 interceptions for the Patriots in 2006.
”He was a big part of making this deal happen,” Samuel said of Dimitroff. ”He’s excited, too, you know? He knows what I bring to the table and I’m going to come in there confident.
”I knew he had a lot of familiarity with me. We talked every time we played each other. It definitely had a lot to do with it and he definitely made me comfortable.”
The Falcons are left with five picks but no first-round selection in the NFL draft.
Samuel became expendable when the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha and acquired Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last July, giving them three Pro Bowl cornerbacks. But the team couldn’t find a suitable deal for Samuel, so they kept him and used Rodgers-Cromartie in the nickel spot.
While Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in a new defense and new roles, Samuel was the most consistent of the trio. The outspoken Samuel probably sealed his fate in Philadelphia when he criticized the front office at the trade deadline, saying management was ”playing fantasy football with the owner’s money.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the Falcons only lost a seventh-round pick in the trade.
”I wish Philly nothing but the best,” Samuel said. ”I love the organization and Eagles Nation. I know it was sad to see me go. I know everybody can’t figure why this is happening and why it is going this way, but this is business.”
Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said Samuel ”has been a very productive member of the Eagles for the past four years and we appreciate all that he has done for our organization.
”We obviously feel good about our cornerback situation moving forward with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as our starters. Those two played very well together in the latter part of the season and we anticipate that will continue as we head into the 2012 season.”
The Eagles, who were looking to clear payroll, now have 10 picks in the draft, including three of the top 51.
Samuel has 45 career interceptions in nine seasons, fourth among active players. He had only three interceptions in 14 games last season, but his 38 interceptions since 2006 lead the NFL.
"We just improved our team today,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. ”Asante Samuel is a good football player and you can never have enough good players on your team. Our game has become more of a passing game, and you have to have the players who can neutralize how offenses are trying to attack you.”