The Falcons released Asante Samuel earlier today, and while getting cut is rarely good news for a veteran player, the Falcons did Samuel a favor by releasing him this early in the offseason, as noted by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Because Samuel is a veteran with more than four years of service, being released over a month in advance of free agency will allow him to get a head start on finding a new home for 2014. Players with less than four years of service would have to clear waivers before being eligible for free agency.
Because Samuel is able to sign with a team at any time, rumors are already flying about his possible suitors. One school of thought suggests the 33-year-old cornerback would sign on a relatively cheap deal with a playoff-caliber team looking to add a veteran to its secondary. A few clubs that would seem to make sense are the Broncos, Packers, Bears, and Patriots, according to Brett Sobileski of USAToday.com. He also notes that the Panthers could be an intriguing option, considering their struggles in the secondary and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott‘s familiarity with Samuel from their time with the Eagles.
Of course, as fast as these rumors start, they get shot down. The more likely scenario for the Panthers would be to re-sign Captain Munnerlyn, and look to replace Drayton Florence with a younger, cheaper free agent option, writes Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. He adds that the team was impressed with undrafted rookie Melvin White‘s improvement in 2013, and would only consider Samuel as an “emergency fall-back option.”
The Patriots would also be better off trying to re-sign their own free agent cornerback, writes Will Gellman of RantSports.com. He believes that the aging Samuel is not worth taking up cap space that could go to Aqib Talib or other free agents. Gellman also adds that Patriot fans might not be excited to see him back after he dropped an errant Eli Manning pass in Super Bowl XLII that could have sealed a perfect season for New England.
The Bears and Broncos both are already dealing with the potential loss of older, high-profile cornerbacks, as Charles Tillman is hitting free agency and Champ Bailey has a $10MM salary that will surely not be on the books in 2014, either via restructure or release. The Broncos are also expected to try to sign Samuel’s former teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a long-term deal. The Packers will most likely focus their efforts first on trying to re-sign Sam Shields.