The Oakland Raiders chose to go with Richard Seymour this offseason, signing the Pro Bowl lineman to a 2-year, $30 million dollar deal in February. While you never know whether it was a binary choice, that $15 million per year probably mirrors or exceeds what Asomugha would demand on the open market. All indications out of Oakland are that Asomugha, who is now an unrestricted free agent, will be gone.
Now, I understand that there are many that think the line is so important relative to a star cornerback that the decision had to be Seymour. I also understand that Seymour helped alter the defensive mentality and was a leader on the defensive line. Those things are in the past and can be used to justify the trade from Oakland’s perspective. However, any belief that the Raiders “had to resign Seymour” fails to understand the concept of sunk costs. They had given up the first round pick already, and that was true whether they chose to retain Seymour or Asomugha.
Seymour is two years older than Asomugha, so I tried to come up with some comparable players to assess each of them. For Asomugha, I looked at the 11 guys who also made a pro bowl 3 straight years from 27 to 29 since the merger. For Seymour, I looked at defensive linemen who also made a pro bowl at age 31, and then looked at those that had the most similar careers prior to age 31. (Michael Strahan, Leslie O’Neal, Cortez Kennedy, Sam Adams, Fred Smerlas, Neil Smith, Chris Doleman, Michael Dean Perry, Charles Haley, John Randle, Ray Childress, Jason Taylor and La’Roi Glover made up the comp group).
The Seymour comps and Asomugha comps were actually pretty close in year one (age 32 for the linemen and age 30 for the corners), but after that, it fell off pretty quickly. The younger corners held their value pretty well through age 33 (where half were still starting), while the defensive linemen fell off in year two (over half were retired or part-time starters or worse).
I guess I would have probably gone with the younger player if I had two stars at different positions, unless their was a specific compelling reason like an injury. The Asomugha comps started 3.8 seasons out of the next 5, averaged 1.4 pro bowls (8 of 11 made at least one between 30-34), and 4 out of the 11 made another all pro first team. By year 5, most were done. Rod Woodson’s move to safety made him the only one starting at a high level at age 34.
If I’m valuing Asomugha, I’m looking at 2 years of above average production, with 1-2 more years of average play. I’m not counting on that 5th year, though I may go there to spread cap dollars knowing I’m not likely to be paying base salary when he’s 34.
In fact, there is one player who compares very favorably to Asomugha. Nnamdi has been selected to a pro bowl three straight years while having only 2 combined interceptions. Like Asomugha, Lemar Parrish, a star cornerback for the Bengals in the 1970’s, was selected to three straight pro bowls from 27 to 29 with a very low interception total. Both had a big interception season early in their careers, then teams went away from them in their primes. Like Asomugha, Parrish changed teams at about the same age, moving to the Redskins when he was 30. He went on to have a big interception year at age 32, and made 3 pro bowls and 1 all pro first team.
So who are the teams likely to be vying for a star cornerback? Peter King speculates in his mailbag that Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and the Jets could be among the teams interested in going after him. I don’t see the Jets having the money to commit, though a Asomugha and Revis secondary would be brutal for opposing quarterbacks. I’m actually interested in the Detroit speculation, because that team has had 8 different primary starting corners the last 4 years (the opposite of stability) and adding Asomugha would add another element to the Suh/Fairley/Vanden Bosch line.
Of course, Dallas and Philadelphia will probably bid for his services, and you can always throw Washington in the mix in such a free agent frenzy, meaning the NFC East is likely to be hot for Asomugha. Dallas has clear secondary needs and Jerry likes to make a splash. Among teams not mentioned by King (I agree that those are all the most likely candidates), I wouldn’t rule out a AFC West team getting in on the bidding, as there always seems to be a willingness to stick it to rivals in free agent acquisitions in the West (Denver maybe, with the aging secondary?). The Rams could be a team looking to take hold of the NFC West with a move as well, but may not want to commit the money necessary in an excellent market for the cornerback. Jacksonville is another team that could use help at cornerback to try to improve the pass defense dramatically.
I’m going to say that he is going to Big D, though. Detroit. Or maybe Dallas.
[photo via Getty]