Samuel still possible fit for Lions at cornerback

March 28, 2012

The Detroit Lions have departed the NFL meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., with a buzz that their interest has continued in obtaining cornerback Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cornerback is a position of need for the Lions. A veteran starter with proven coverage ability would be a good addition to their defense.

But there are questions concerning Samuel’s salary and whether, at 31 years old, he's still close to being a top-echelon cornerback.

The first round of the NFL Draft is April 26, and the issue regarding Samuel no doubt will be settled before that.

Martin Mayhew has been an aggressive in attempting to fill needs since he took over as Lions general manager early in the 2008 season. He has traded for veterans and draft picks.

Cornerback Chris Houston and tackle Corey Williams are veteran starters acquired n trades for low-round draft picks, as was backup defensive end Lawrence Jackson. On offense, guard Rob Sims, No. 2 tight end Tony Scheffler and backup quarterback Shaun Hill all were acquired in trades.

The Lions reportedly talked with the Eagles a year ago about a possible trade for Samuel, but the Eagles’ asking price, in the form of draft picks, was too high.

Also last year, Mayhew tried to trade up in the first round of the draft to get cornerback Patrick Peterson of LSU. Peterson wound up going to the Arizona Cardinals with the fifth pick overall.

Eagles GM Howie Roseman told reporters at the NFL meetings that cornerback is a position of strength on the team. Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Samuel are all competing for playing time.

Samuel’s base salary of $9.5 million for 2012 is a sticking point for any team interested in dealing for him. But Samuel reportedly has said he's interested in renegotiating his contract to lower his salary-cap number.

Samuel has played nine pro seasons, starting with the New England Patriots in 2003 as a fourth-round draft pick. He signed with the Eagles as a free agent in 2008, after five seasons in New England.

Samuel has 45 career interceptions, including a career high of 10 in 2006 and nine in 2009, his second season in Philly. He led the NFL in picks those two seasons. He had seven in 2010 in only 11 games and dropped off to three last season, when he played and started 14 games.

The Lions lost starting cornerback Eric Wright to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. Wright signed a one-year contract with the Lions last season as a free agent and was the team’s only cornerback to start all 16 games.

Rules changes

The owners voted to adopt a proposal to make the rule on overtime the same in the regular season as it is for the playoffs. Starting this season, both teams will have at least one possession, unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown.

Previously, a team would win the game with a field goal on the first possession — as the Lions did in winning at Minnesota on Sept. 25.

Also, the owners voted to have turnovers reviewed automatically — the same as for scoring plays — instead of requiring the coach to throw a challenge flag, and to make the penalty for having too many men on the field a dead-ball foul.

Under the dead-ball classification, a 5-yard penalty will be assessed and the game clock will be reset to the point where the ball was snapped. The change is designed to prevent teams from stacking the defense with extra players late in the game to trade a 5-yard penalty for taking time off the clock.

Two proposals were voted down — having all replay reviews done by a replay official in the press box instead of the referee, and applying the horse-collar rule to quarterbacks while still in the pocket. As a result, quarterbacks can still be tackled by the back of the jersey or shoulder pads if they are in the pocket.

Two other proposals were tabled — moving the trade deadline back two weeks to after Week 8, and letting teams designate one player who goes on injured reserve after the first week eligible to return to the active roster after Week 8 instead of being out for the season.

The tabled proposals stand a good chance of passing at the next meeting in May.