PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles got the defensive playmaker they desperately needed, signing free-agent cornerback Asante Samuel to a six-year contract on Friday.
Samuel, an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection this past season, spent the last five seasons with the New England Patriots and had 16 interceptions the last two seasons. The Eagles wasted little time making an offer, reportedly worth up to $60 million, on the first day of free agency.
"We regarded Asante as the No. 1 available free agent in the NFL," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said.
The Eagles badly needed a shutdown corner like Samuel. Philadelphia had only 11 interceptions last year and failed to score a defensive touchdown. Its defense had an NFL-worst 19 takeaways.
Samuel, a fourth-round draft pick in 2003, also tied the NFL career playoff record with three interceptions returned for TDs
Samuel, who won two Super Bowl rings, has 22 career interceptions. He was protected by New England last year by the franchise player tag.
"I just want a chance to be able to win and get back to the Super Bowl," Samuel said.
Samuel tied Denver's Champ Bailey for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions in 2006 and returned two more picks for touchdowns in the postseason against the Jets and Colts. His 12 total interceptions in the 2006 regular season and playoffs were the highest combined single-season total in Patriots history.
The move means the Eagles will likely trade or shift positions for either Lito Sheppard or Sheldon Brown.
Sheppard, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is reportedly unhappy with his contract. The Eagles denied a report earlier this month that Sheppard had asked for or been given permission to seek a trade. He signed a five-year extension in November 2004.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said Samuel will be the starting left cornerback, or, what was Sheppard's starting job.
"When you have an opportunity to get the best one in the business, then you need to look at that," Reid said.
Samuel hoped Sheppard and Brown would be on the roster and felt the trio could give the Eagles perhaps the best secondary in the NFL.
When asked if he felt underappreciated in New England, Samuel declined to comment.
He said the Eagles were on the top of a list of four teams he considered visiting. After the Eagles gave him a hard sell on the first day free agents could sign, Samuel decided to stay in Philly.
"When you come to one that makes you happy, why wait around?" Samuel said.
Samuel is the latest in a line of former New England Super Bowl winners who have moved on, joining Deion Branch, Adam Vinatieri, David Givens and Daniel Graham.