Well, the first domino fell, and it made one helluva crashing noise when it did.
Just as the first day of free agency was drawing to a close, Aqib Talib signed a 6 yr/56 mil deal (26 mil guaranteed) with the Denver Broncos.
Here are four instant reactions from this game-changing deal:
1. That contract is absolutely bananas.
Seriously. Losing Talib hurts (we’ll get there), but if I were the New England Patriots I don’t match that, no way, no how. 9.5 million a year? For 6 years? With 26 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed to a cornerback in NFL history?? This is the same cornerback who was pulled because of injury in two straight AFC title games, right? Aqib Talib said he wanted to be the best-paid corner in the market, but this is a bit much right?
To put this in perspective, earlier in the day, the Tampa Bay signed Alterraun Verner to a 4yr/26.5 million deal, who was three years younger with no injury history and arguably just as promising a talent.
Yes, losing the Super Bowl in such an embarrassing fashion has obviously made the Broncos desperate to import any and every talent (TJ Ward already signed there, and DeMarcus Ware seems to be next), but the chances of this contract being looked back upon as worth it seems slim.
2. That being said…
We all saw what happened without Talib on the field in the afore-mentioned AFC title game. As the secondary sits now, that’s a major weakness. As promising as Logan Ryan was last year, can you throw him in as the No. 1 corner? Alfonzo Dennard, as much as we all like him, has a whole lot of trouble with corners much taller than him. And at this point, I don’t trust Kyle Arrington anywhere outside of the slot.
We always knew losing Talib was a possibility, but it’s hard not to feel at least little deflated, especially at the hands of the team’s No. 1 rival.
But we know for certain that Bill Belichick has contingency plans on top of contingency plans. So…
3. Let’s Go Shopping
Alright so Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes, Vontae Davis, Sam Shields, and DeAngelo Hall are all off the market. And I really find it hard to believe the Patriots would go after Antonio Cromartie, what with the bad blood between them (though stranger things have happened).
But there are still some goodies left in the market. Although he’s 33, Charles Tillman is a steady veteran presence who is a shutdown corner in man-to-man coverage (though a bit shaky in zone). At 6’2, Tillman immediately takes pressure off of Dennard and provides a great mentor for Logan Ryan.
My favorite free agent corner left, and arguably the top on the current market, is former Bronco Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. While he was expected to re-sign with Denver, the presence of Talib (and the comparatively inexpensive Chris Harris) probably changes that. DRC bounced around a bit after a promising start in Arizona, but was the Broncos’ best cornerback, and at 27 has a lot of football ahead of him. Like Tillman, he’s best in man coverage on the outside, and at 6’2 can match up with the biggest receivers in the AFC.
But the name on everyone’s lips is obviously Darrelle Revis, who is rumored to be cut from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, it would behoove the Patriots to trade for the Buccaneers before they release him. With the top corners off the market, the Patriots don’t want to get into a bidding war for the corner. By trading for him, and possibly restructuring his deal a bit to ease this year’s cap hit (next year, a whole lot of money comes off the books), financially it’s a fit.
And without a question, Darrelle Revis is a great fit for the Patriots defense. The former “Island” specializes in neutralizing star receivers. At 28, Revis is still in his prime, and after years of being stuck on underachieving teams, he might buy into a team desperate to win a Super Bowl right now. CBSSports’ Jason LaCanfora reported the former Jet would love to play in New England, which may make it easier to negotiate with him than, say, Cleveland.
Most likely the Patriots will be making moves on a corner by the time this article is posted, but I’d be very surprised if it’s not one of the three listed above.
4. Corner moves up the Patriots draft needs
Since no corner will be brought in, now that Talib is gone, on a team-friendly deal, it makes sense for the Patriots to bring in another blue-chip prospect through the draft. And, as fate would have it, this year’s class has some very interesting players.
The real prizes are obviously Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, but both figure to be long gone by #29. I have a huge football crush on TCU’s Jason Verrett (very few college corners had as great a nose for the ball or played as fearlessly as him) but his below-average length may lead to his being used mainly as a slot cover. Bradley Roby has impressed greatly with a terrific Combine, especially after a disappointing final season at Ohio State. Kyle Fuller has impressed enough scouts that a team may ignore his injury risks and go all in on his talent.
And the middle rounds are likewise dotted with talent. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Keith McGill and Pierre Desir all fit the bill of the long, rangy corner that seems destined to be the en-vogue type after the Seahawks SB win. And corners like Bashaud Breeland (Clemson), Jaylen Watkins (Florida), and Ross Cockrell (Duke) are almost certainly on the Patriots big board.
No matter how the rest of free agency shakes out, it seem now, more than ever, that New England will bring in another corner via the draft.
So that’s that. As I’m writing this it’s 12:43 AM, and all is quiet after the Talib deal. By the morning more moves will be made and we’ll all panic again.