Fact: copious amounts of dreadlocked hair + your defense = SUCCESS
Let's set any dispute as to his salary aside for a minute. Let's also set aside the fact that Dimitroff acquired him for a box of Krispy Kremes and a large iced coffee. Why? Because we just won the lottery!
If a defensive back's value was measured solely by his interception total, then I'd be worried about the Samuel trade. Not super worried; maybe just a little worried. Luckily interception total is not the only DB-related stat out there. And luckily I'm here to point that out.
Samuel has intercepted less balls each year since 2009. He's also defended fewer passes each year since 2009.
Meanwhile, despite the decline in his interception total/passes defended total, he's still a premier CB. His yards per pass total in 2011 ranked 3rd in the NFL (4.4). His success rate in 2011 ranked 3rd in the NFL (67 percent). His YAC allowed in 2011 ranked 2nd in the league (2).
I'm fairly sure those numbers alone should be enough to convince even the most skeptical of Falcons fans. But if you happen to think that Samuel's success in 2011 was solely attributable to the all star cast Philly surrounded him with, then think again. Samuel was targeted 61 times in 2011. No other Philly CB had 40 targets. Translation? They picked on him, and he still outshone Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Hanson. All while Philly's pass rush regressed.
This kind of thing isn't new for Samuel. His yards per pass allowed and success rate were the best in the league in 2010. Also in 2010, opposing quarterbacks averaged a 31.7 rating when facing him, by far the best average rating against in the league. That year, opposing quarterbacks completed just 46.3 percent of their passes to the areas/WRs he covered; Revis did better, but Samuel's yards per catch allowed that year made Revis' yard per catch allowed look amateurish.
So what's wrong with him? Nothing really. If we're nitpicking, he's struggled with miss tackles here and there. Given that our run defense was the third most efficient in the league last year (16.6 percent more efficient than the league average), I think we'll be alright. As for his age, he's probably not where he was physically 5-6 years ago. But he's still got plenty left in the tank, and with his nose for the ball, our secondary should thrive this year.