Asante Samuel's first name means "thank you" in Swahili, but it's unlikely he'll be thanking Chicago Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher anytime soon.
The Bears cornerback didn't aid Samuel's cause when he signed a five-year, $28 million contract extension Monday. Vasher, who had one year left on his rookie contract, signed a deal that includes $14 million in guarantees, according to published reports, and is a lot closer to the contract that Dre' Bly signed this offseason with the Broncos (five years, $33 million; $18 million in bonus money, $16 million of which is guaranteed) than the Nate Clements money (eight years, $80 million; $22.1 million in bonuses and guarantees) that Samuel is believed to be seeking.
When it was suggested that Vasher had not done Samuel any favors by signing for something similar to the $6 million per season and approximately $13 million in bonuses that the Patriots are believed to have offered Samuel, Samuel's agent, Alonzo Shavers, replied, "They didn't hurt us, either. Vasher's production is what it is, but he is not Asante."
Vasher, 25, and Samuel, 26, have followed similar career paths. Both were fourth-round picks -- Vasher No. 110 overall in 2004 and Samuel No. 120 overall in 2003 -- who have outperformed their initial contracts. Both have started in Super Bowls -- Samuel in New England's 24-21 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX and Vasher in Chicago's 29-17 loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
Vasher has 16 career interceptions in the regular season, the same as Samuel, who has played one more season.
They each have returned two regular-season interceptions for touchdowns.
Samuel has never been selected for the Pro Bowl. He didn't go last season despite tying Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey for the league lead in interceptions with 10. Vasher made the Pro Bowl in 2005 after recording a career-high eight INTs, which tied him for fourth in the NFL that season. Vasher intercepted three passes last season.
Where Samuel separates himself is in the postseason. Vasher has one interception in four postseason contests. Samuel has three in 11 games, all in the last two seasons. He has returned all three for touchdowns, including two during the Patriots' most recent playoff run.
Shavers maintained that Vasher's deal has no effect on his client, who as a designated franchise player has until 4 p.m. July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with the Patriots. After that Samuel, who has threatened to hold out until the 10th week of the season, can sign only a one-year contract and can't be extended until after the season.
Shavers pointed out that the Bears locked up Vasher before his contract became an issue; prior to the extension, he was slated to make $850,000 in base salary next season, in what would have been the final year of his rookie deal.
"Vasher's deal has nothing to do with us," said Shavers. "It was an innovative move to lock him up with another year on his deal. The Bears were being proactive and doing what a good organization will do. It was a good business move. Vasher obviously agreed to terms, so congratulations to him and their organization."
But just as Clements's contract affected the market for Samuel -- who has yet to sign his $7.79 million franchise tender -- so will Vasher's.
With training camp exactly a month away, Samuel and the Patriots still appear to be in a stalemate. Shavers said he hasn't spoken to the Patriots "in a little while," but he expects that to change with the deadline looming.
When pressed for specifics on what it would take for New England to get Samuel's imprimatur on a long-term deal, Shavers wouldn't do the numbers dance.
"The Patriots know what we're asking for," said Shavers. "It's not a secret."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.