Burned in the air at a record-setting rate last year, the Philadelphia Eagles have loaded up to stop the pass.
Nnamdi Asomugha became the latest star cornerback to join the Eagles, signing a $60 million, five-year deal on Friday.
One day after acquiring two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Arizona, the Eagles stunned the NFL world by landing Asomugha, a two-time All-Pro.
Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie will team up with Asante Samuel, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, to form probably the best cover secondary in the league.
Last year, the Eagles allowed a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes in the regular season, and three more in a 21-16 loss to Green Bay at home in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's always been a priority position for us," general manager Howie Roseman said. "Corners, pass rushers, and we felt like last year, we were in a situation where maybe we got a little short-handed, and we thought it was a place that we wanted to go heavy and have a lot of talent at.
"You can never have enough cover corners. That helps your pass rush and when you have an opportunity to add the players we added, we just thought we had to add those guys."
While other teams made headlines in their pursuit of Asomugha, Roseman and president Joe Banner quietly swooped and made a pitch to him that he simply could not refuse.
Asomugha's deal includes $25 million guaranteed.
"Howie and Joe worked their tail off and put together this phenomenal plan," coach Andy Reid said. "They came out of the gates like wild men and attacked the issue. Neither one of them has had much sleep. But they've rewarded our football team and the city of Philadelphia with some great players."
Lost in the Asomugha shuffle was the fact that the Eagles also formally announced a one-year deal for quarterback Vince Young, a 2006 first-round pick of Tennessee. Young, who went 30-2 as a starter at Texas and led the Longhorns to a national championship in his final game there only to have an up-and-down tenure with the Titans, will back up Eagles starter Michael Vick.
Asomugha, considered the top free agent on the market, spent his first eight seasons with the Raiders. He had a career-high eight interceptions in 2006, went to the Pro Bowl after the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons and was named a first-team all-pro in 2008 and 2010.
Even though he has just three interceptions in the last three years — mainly because teams don't throw to his side — Asomugha is widely regarded the best cover cornerback in the NFL, and was courted by several high-profile teams, including the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
"He's one of the best — if not the best — cornerback in the National Football League," Reid said. "He'll be a great addition to our cornerback corps."
There's speculation the Eagles may not keep Samuel, who was excused from training camp at Lehigh University the first two days. If Samuel is trade bait, Roseman certainly isn't letting on, however.
"We do consider the third corner a starter," he said. "This is a passing league. We think it's important to be able to defend the pass and pressure the quarterback. When you have cover players and pass rushers, and we added a couple of those today and yesterday, I think that helps you do that."
Though he may have made more elsewhere, Asomugha made it clear he was interested in winning a Super Bowl as well. As the league headed toward it's free-agency signing period, which started on Friday at 6 p.m., it appeared that the Jets were the clear frontrunner. What seemed to help New York's cause is that Asomugha has aspirations of acting when his playing days are over. New York, over several other destinations, clearly seemed like a good place to start that second career.
But instead of joining the team that made the AFC title game the last two years, he'll join an Eagles club that went 10-6 last season, won the NFC East and figures now to be considered among the Super Bowl favorites this year.
The move was more surprising because the Eagles weren't a part of the early courting of Asomugha. In fact, Roseman said Philadelphia entered negotiations "very late."
The Eagles also officially signed Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin to a five-year contract, and tight end Donald Lee and wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins to one-year deals.
"It's been fast," Reid said, "and furious."
Asomugha is the latest big-name free agent to chose Philadelphia over other destinations.
In December, the Phillies, hoping to get back to the World Series for the third time since 2008, signed pitcher Cliff Lee, the biggest catch of Major League Baseball's free-agent class. And earlier this month, the Flyers snagged the most accomplished free-agent forward on the NHL market, Jaromir Jagr. Both were viewed as surprises.
Asomugha may be the biggest.