Stop me if you've heard this before, but the Patriots are in a bit of a pickle due to injuries.
There's never a good time for all three of your top cornerbacks to be fighting injuries, but there isn't a worse time than the week that Peyton Manning and his high-flying Broncos invade Foxborough. The Patriots already expect to be without starter Alfonzo Dennard, while uncertainty surrounds both Aqib Talib (hip) and Kyle Arrington (groin) due to their various ailments.
This has led to some clamoring for the Patriots to sign former Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha. The 32 year old Asomugha made his name as one of the league's best cover corners with the Oakland Raiders, where he made 3 Pro Bowls, 4 All Pro teams and 2 "Team of the Decade" awards, leading Asomugha to be one of the crown jewels of the 2011 free agent market.
However, everything went downhill almost immediately after Asomugha signed a five year, $60 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. High expectations, an ill-fitting scheme and Asomugha's age all contributed to two wildly disappointing seasons in Philadelphia. The Eagles cut ties after that, freeing Asomugha to return to the bay area and sign with the San Francisco 49ers.
Nnamdi made the team as a nickel corner but struggled in that role, eventually being relegated to a healthy scratch as Trumaine Brock and undrafted rookie Darryl Morris both overtook him on the depth chart. The Niners finally cut bait with Asomugha on November 4, leaving the corner available to all 32 teams.
Despite the Patriots injury predicament, signing Asomugha sounds like a waste of time. The tape doesn't lie, and the tape has been very unkind to Asomugha recently. Nnamdi ranked 101 out of 113 qualifiers on ProfootballFocus's cornerback grades last season, and was near the bottom of the ranking this year before losing his job. At 32, it's time to face the reality that Nnamdi no longer has the athleticism to get it done.
Even if Nnamdi still had some of his old speed, the fit would be odd in New England. Nnamdi excelled in Oakland, playing press man almost exclusively. His move to Philadelphia, who tend to mix up their coverages, exposed him as a bit of a one-trick pony. Nnamdi was still decent when playing press man in Philly, but displayed a fatal lack of instincts in zone coverage. He also struggled when forced to give cushion in man coverage.
Versatility is something Bill Belichick looks for in all his players, and cornerbacks are no exception. The Patriots expect their corners to excel regardless of the coverage called and tend to mix up coverages to keep opposing quarterbacks off balance. Past-his-prime (which is a very kind understatement) Nnamdi Asomugha is clearly not worth building your scheme around.
Furthermore, Belichick has always valued cornerbacks who are sound, willing tacklers in run support. Despite his size (6'2", 210 lbs), Nnamdi struggled mightily in the tackling department both in Philly and San Fran. It's just another knock against Nnamdi, who simply doesn't look like an NFL caliber corner anymore.
Pats fans might not want to hear it, but the Globe's Ben Volin has a better idea.
Ras-I Dowling is on the #Jets practice squad. If I ran the #Patriots I'd consider plucking himI don't know about you, but the fact that he has a valid point scares the shit out of me.
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 20, 2013