The Eagles on Tuesday severed their last remaining tie to the ballyhooed 2011 free agent class that amounted to one of the worst in franchise history by releasing cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
The move, which came about two years after Asomugha signed a blockbuster five-year contract worth $60 million (Eagles' biggest free-agent bust ever?) and minutes before the start of free agency, clears up roughly $11 million in cap space for the Eagles, who are now more than $40 under the cap for 2013.
It also leaves the Eagles without their top two starting cornerbacks from 2012, a season in which they became just the eighth team in NFL history to allow more than 30 touchdown passes and generate fewer than 10 interceptions. Their other starter, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is a free agent.
“Coach [Chip] Kelly and I each had a chance to speak with Nnamdi earlier and he took the news with a lot of class," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in a statement. "We expected nothing less than that from him. He has been a true pro on and off the field for this organization and our community and we wish him all the best as he continues his NFL career.
“We spoke to his representatives at the Combine about his future status with the team and wanted to take time to analyze and make a decision. In the end, Coach and I both felt we needed to move in a different direction at the cornerback position for 2013 and beyond."
The Eagles had already parted ways with defensive end Jason Babin, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young -- the four other big-name signings for the Eagles in 2011 that prompted Young to infamously brand them “The Dream Team.”
Instead, the Eagles went 12-20 over the past two years, missed the playoffs both times and fired coach Andy Reid after his 14th season.
Asomugha will pocket $4 million from the Eagles this season, the amount of his base salary that was guaranteed in the original deal. There is no offset language that would prevent the Eagles from paying the $4 million if another team signs him.
Asomugha, considered one of the game’s elite shutdown corners when he arrived at Lehigh in August of 2011, started all 32 games for the Eagles over the past two seasons. He intercepted four total passes, didn’t force or recover a fumble and declined so steeply that the coaches eventually benched him in his final game.
The Eagles allowed the NFL’s most passing touchdowns (33) in 2012 and ninth-most (27) in 2011. Meanwhile, Asomugha made $21,001,860 in those two seasons.
Asomugha, 31, just wrapped up his 10th NFL season -- he spent his first eight in Oakland -- and has never played for a team that finished with a winning record.
In Oakland, he earned a reputation as the game’s best man-press corner and his signing with Eagles came somewhat surprisingly as the team had already traded for Pro Bowler Rodgers-Cromartie to pair with Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel.
Asomugha had made the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three seasons heading into free agency was considered the defensive gem of the free-agent crop. It was viewed as a major coup for the Eagles, whose interest in Asomugha wasn’t known until they signed him. The Jets and Cowboys were considered the frontrunners and reportedly were bidding for his services before the Eagles swooped in at the last second.
Instead of flourishing with a three-headed Pro Bowl corner committee, the Eagles suffered from chemistry and communication problems. Asomugha struggled early in his versatile role playing man and zone coverages and moving inside against tight ends. Rodgers-Cromartie, forced into a nickelback role, looked lost and uncomfortable in the slot corner role.
Just before the 2012 season the Eagles dealt Samuel to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick, clearing the way for Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie to man the outsides. But the Eagles were only worse in the secondary this past season.
After the midseason firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in favor of secondary coach Todd Bowles the Eagles went through a five-game stretch in which opposing quarterbacks combined for a 139.9 passer rating, completed 75.2 percent of their passes, averaged 9.7 yards per attempt and threw 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.