The Philadelphia Eagles have signed free-agent cornerback and former Patriot Asante Samuel to a six-year deal, reportedly worth up to $60 million.
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. Samuel and his agent, Alonzo Shavers, wasted no time, striking a deal on the very first day of free agency and electing not to visit with any teams other than Philadelphia.
Samuel's best game of the 2007 season came against his new team, as he intercepted two passes in the Patriots' 31-28 win over the Eagles at Gillette Stadium last November. He scored his only touchdown of the season, intercepting an A.J. Feely pass on the third play from scrimmage and returning it 40 yards for a score -- his sixth career touchdown, including the playoffs -- and sealed the game with a fourth-quarter interception of Feely.
Samuel leaves New England ranked 10th on the team's all-time interceptions list (regular-season only) with 22 -- matching his jersey number with the Patriots and his new one with the Eagles as well -- in 75 games. Samuel, who won two Super Bowl rings, has 22 career interceptions.
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.
He was protected by the Patriots last year by the franchise player tag.
"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.
"I just want a chance to be able to win and get back to the Super Bowl," Samuel said.
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.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this update