Falcons Acquire Cornerback Asante Samuel From Eagles

“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 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.”


AP Sports Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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AP Source: Falcons Hope to Acquire Asante Samuel

A trade for Samuel would provide a highlight to what has been a relatively quiet offseason for the Falcons, who have worked to retain their free agents instead of making a splash through trades or free agency.

The Falcons have six picks but no first-round selection in the NFL draft. They hope to acquire Samuel before the draft, according to a person familiar with the talks.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the deal, which may include a draft pick, is not complete.

Samuel, 31, is a four-time Pro Bowl pick. He would give the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan a strong trio at cornerback with Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, who Tuesday signed his franchise tag tender. Grimes will make $10.262 million this season.

Grimes’ agent, Ben Dogra, said the cornerback would like a deal that lasts beyond the 2012 season.

“We will continue to talk and the goal is to hopefully reach a long-term deal at some point,” Dogra told The Associated Press.

Samuel’s contract calls for him to earn $9.9 million in 2012 and $11.4 million in 2013. He might rework the deal to help the trade fit the Falcons’ salary cap.

The Falcons began their offseason program on Monday.

Falcons general manager Thomas 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.

Samuel signed a six-year deal with the Eagles in 2008. The Eagles acquired cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie before the 2011 season, creating a trio that didn’t mesh.

An Atlanta trade of one or more draft picks for an established veteran such as Samuel would be another sign Dimitroff’s focus is on 2012 instead of the future.

That’s fine with quarterback Matt Ryan.

“I’m certainly in a win-now mode,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I think that’s the only way you can approach the NFL. Every time you suit up and every time you play, it’s for one reason and that reason is to win.”

Ryan said Samuel, who had 30 tackles and three interceptions in 2011, has been a difficult opponent.

“As far as Asante Samuel, I can only speak for having played against him a number of times and I know that’s he’s been extremely difficult to play against and has done a great job against us when we’ve played him in the past,” Ryan said.

The Falcons were 10-6 last season and 13-3 in 2010 but lost their first playoff game each season. An improved secondary would boost the team’s hopes for 2012.

Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon called Samuel “a player who would improve anyone’s defense.”

Samuel has 45 career interceptions in nine seasons. His three interceptions in 14 games last season was his low total since 2005.

Dimitroff was preparing for the draft and was not available for comment on Tuesday.

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Former Atlanta Falcons Safety Easterling Dead at 62

Local media quoted police as saying that Easterling committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

He was one of seven former NFL players who filed a lawsuit against the league last year, accusing it of concealing links between football and brain injuries.

“The goal is to see that the NFL takes responsibility for what they tried to bury for so many decades and establish a fund for players to access when they find that they’re in (situations like Easterling’s),” his wife, Mary Ann Easterling, said.

Easterling was a safety for the Atlanta Falcons from 1972 to 1979 and was part of the team’s “Gritz Blitz” defense in 1977, setting a league record for fewest points allowed in a season.

Mary Ann Easterling said she began noticing changes in her husband’s personality about 20 years ago, and the severity of the symptoms grew over the years.

“He had difficulty with insomnia … began dealing with depression,” she said, adding that she suspected dementia after reading about other former NFL players with similar problems.

Ray Easterling was diagnosed with dementia a year ago.

Former Chicago Bears -winning quarterback Jim McMahon is also among the seven who filed the high-profile lawsuit against the NFL.

He told Reuters early last year that while he could “kind of remember” winning a Super Bowl, he had difficulty remembering simple things, such as why he had walked into a room.

The NFL has dismissed allegations that it deliberately misled players.

The league has also created a concussion awareness website and has levied heavy fines on players for helmet-to-helmet hits during recent seasons.

Easterling’s wife said he had relentlessly battled dementia and had continued to go jogging in his Richmond, Virginia neighborhood after the diagnosis.

“Neighbors would go out and encourage him. If he looked like he was going to stumble or not be able to get back, they would help him out,” she said.

“I’ve just come off an evening of people sharing memories of him and how much he meant to them,” she said, shortly after a house gathering. “It’s made me love him that much more.”

(Editing by Greg McCune; David Brunnstrom)

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