When the Atlanta Falcons acquired cornerback Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, they were bringing in a defensive back who had made the Pro Bowl in four of his past five seasons. Pairing him with Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, the Falcons appeared to have crafted one of the league's premier cornerback trios. At the start of the 2013 season, however, Samuel was the only member of the trio who remained on the roster. As of Wednesday afternoon, the entire trio is out of Atlanta, as the Falcons have released Samuel.
With declining skills at the age of 33, Samuel was relegated to a bench role in 2013 and would have returned to the same role next season. Due a $3.5 million base salary with a $1.675 roster bonus this season, he was simply no longer worth the money. Having allowed a 113.7 passer rating on throws into his coverage this year, Samuel graded out as Pro Football Focus' 57th ranked cornerback among 110 qualifiers.
Dumping Samuel will allow the Falcons to give more valuable reps to their promising young cornerback duo of Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, who were both rookies in 2013. Trufant was phenomenal, grading out as PFF's No. 7 cornerback in his rookie campaign. Alford struggled quite a bit throughout the season, but the Falcons still feel that he has tremendous upside.
As for Samuel, he'll hit the open market with his best days behind him, but he can still contribute as a role player for an NFL defense, particularly one that employs a zone-heavy scheme. The Chicago Bears could let Charles Tillman walk as a free agent this offseason, so they could be a potential landing spot for Samuel.
Samuel was at his best 2007-10, when he made four consecutive Pro Bowls to go with a first-team All-Pro selection. He has 51 career interceptions and has led the league twice in that category (2006 and 2009).