In July 2011, Nnamdi Asomugha left the Oakland Raiders as arguably the top shutdown cornerback in the NFL. Three seasons later, he will re-sign with the club and subsequently announce he's stepping away from the game for good.
The Raiders announced that Asomugha will sign a one-day contract with the club on Dec. 27, where he will retire after 11 NFL seasons:
Former Raiders DB Nnamdi Asomugha will announce his retirement from professional football in a news conference at Raiders HQ tomorrow.— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) December 26, 2013
Asomugha, 32, walks away from the game at a time where most expected him to still be anchoring secondaries. A 2003 first-round pick (No. 31 overall) by Oakland, he quickly established a reputation as one of the game's best man-to-man corners. While he truly broke out during his eight-interception 2006 campaign, he was really at his best when opposing quarterbacks avoided him altogether.
In 2008, Asomugha made his first Pro Bowl as opposing signal-callers targeted him just 27 times all season long. Pressing up against the league's best wide receivers, teams would completely design their gameplans around sending receivers in motion and utilizing other tricks to prevent him from making the big play.
Often underrated because of his low interception totals, Asomugha still managed three straight Pro Bowl and All-Pro appearances from 2008-10. That 2010 campaign would unfortunately be the last time he ever reached lofty heights.
Faced with the prospect of giving Asomugha a massive payday, the Raiders instead allowed him to hit the open market, where he subsequently signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Ranked among the best players in football heading into the 2011 season, he struggled to acclimate to his surroundings.
Rather than being put on an island in man coverage like he was in Oakland, the Eagles instead tried fitting Asomugha into their more zone-oriented defensive scheme. He lined up all over the field, moving from the outside to nickel corner and even playing some safety. While he was a second Pro Bowl alternate, it was clear he wasn't the same player who left Oakland.
A season later, Asomugha was one of the worst cornerbacks in football, as quarterbacks had a 120.6 passer rating throwing in his direction, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Two years after signing his massive contract, the Eagles released him, and he had trouble finding another team.
“It was a myriad of reasons," Asomugha said of his struggles in Philadelphia, via the 49ers. "We could sit down and talk for a couple of hours. The bottom line is I didn’t get it done out there. It just didn’t work out."
The San Francisco 49ers eventually brought him in on a one-year deal, but his stop was short-lived. He played in only three games before being released last month.
Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune noted the fractured view on Asomugha's long-term legacy:
For a several-year period, Asomugha was an exceptional cover corner in man-to-man defenses. Little in way of ball skills. Average tackler.— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) December 27, 2013
Asomugha finishes with 15 career interceptions and 406 tackles over 143 games. Known as one of the better people off the field in the NFL, he was honored with the President's Volunteer Service Award in 2008 to go along with his four All-Pros and three Pro Bowls.
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