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Asante Samuel Trade: Falcons Make Their Splash, Steal "Pick-Six" From Philly

There's really no better way to sum it up. The Falcons gave up their seventh-round pick in this year's draft (No. 229 overall), and in return received a cornerback who thrives in zone coverage and has made his living in the NFL as a ball-hawking defensive back.

Atlanta's third-down defense last season, which can only be described as "porous," is suddenly much, much better. Sure, the three-year / $18.5M price tag isn't anything to scoff at, but it's much better than the original contract, and what Samuel provides outweighs any seventh-round pick by a long shot.

As you could tell yesterday, I really wasn't expecting this deal to happen at all. Now it turns out the only reason the Falcons were able to make this deal happen was Samuel himself:

"I wanted to be a Falcon, so we made it work"

After turning down a contract offered by the Broncos back in March, Asante is now part of a suddenly intriguing defense in Atlanta, playing under the man who drafted him (GM Thomas Dimitroff).

But where exactly does he fit in? And how does this change the team's draft plans? Hit that "continue" button...

Like I said earlier, Samuel's strength is not tackling. Ask any Eagles fan, and they'll be happy to point out that he's not known for being the type of player who'll stick his head into the middle of a pile.

But what he does offer in a pass-happy NFL is coverage ability the Falcons won't really get anywhere else. Even after what most considered a "down" season in 2011, Samuel still ranked among the top cover corners in the league, according to Football Outsiders:

Top Cornerbacks by "Success Rate" in 2011:
1- Brice McCain [70% success rate, 4.4 yards allowed per pass in 50 targets]
2- Richard Sherman [68% success rate, 5.6 yards allowed per pass in 81 targets]
3- Asante Samuel [67% success rate, 4.4 yards allowed per pass in 61 targets]

For those curious, our own Brent Grimes ranked tenth on that list last season.

And as if you're optimism wasn't already disproportionately high, Samuel also ranked second among all cornerbacks in yards allowed after the catch, averaging a paltry 2.0 yards per completed pass.

With Grimes now almost certainly on his way out of Atlanta next March, the Falcons may have seemingly taken a risk in signing the 31-year old Samuel for the next three years. But as things are right now, he's playing good football, and can likely improve Mike Smith's defense almost immediately.

I do recognize that the Falcons are now probably a few million over the salary cap, and they'll probably have to cut a few players or restructure their contracts (Michael Turner's $7M salary comes to mind). But all in all, I still think it was well worth it. The team made their typical "one big splash," and look much better off for having done so.

Looking ahead to the draft, the Falcons are now definitely not interested in taking someone like Brandon Boykin or Trumaine Johnson. Instead, they'll be able to focus on the offensive and defensive lines in rounds two and three, both areas that could use some added talent or depth.

Oh, and Thomas Dimitroff? He might've committed a robbery, and the Eagles probably just got swindled big time. Bravo!

For more on the Falcons, visit The Falcoholic; for everything Eagles, head over to Bleeding Green Nation.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.