The departure of Aqib Talib for Denver — and a six-year, $57 million deal that includes $26 million in guaranteed money — leaves a hole in the Patriots secondary.
As it relates to the offseason, Talib’s decision changes the landscape for New England, namely when it comes to the possibility of Darrelle Revis in Foxboro. While the acquisition of Revis was a fantasy football-style pipe dream beforehand (just move some money around and voila!), now with Talib leaving for Denver, there’s the genuine possibility that the Patriots could acquire Revis.
The veteran corner, who will apparently be cut (or traded) by the Buccaneers on Wednesday, could be had for a little as a fifth-round pick, according to Jason LaCanfora, who Tweeted Tuesday night that Revis wants to be in New England. A three-time first-team All-Pro who will turn 29 before the start of the 2014 season, the 6-foot, 205-pounder has established a well-earned reputation as one of the best defensive backs in the recent history of the game. He has 21 career picks in seven years in the league, and the only reason that number isn’t higher is because quarterbacks have almost stopped throwing in his direction entirely: According to the analytical site Pro Football Focus, when quarterbacks threw in his direction just 63 times last year, the second-fewest pass attempts against any cornerback who had more than 800 snaps last year (he trailed only Seattle’s Richard Sherman).
“He covers big guys, small guys. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s patient, he’s strong,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said of Revis prior to the Patriots-Bucs game last September. “He doesn’t have any weaknesses. I don’t think I’ve completed many balls on his side of the field very often. He’s not a guy that you want to test and see how well you’re going to do. He’s just a great all-around player.”
No one is debating the greatness of Revis, but it’s a double-edged sword when you talk about his current situation: If the Patriots decide to push all their chips to the middle of the table and swing a deal for the defensive back, they’d be taking on a massive contract the likes of which they’ve rarely dealt with, as well as a player who has a history of holdouts. (For what it’s worth, the Patriots have never paid a cornerback more than $10 million annually. In retrospect, there was no way they were going to match the deal the Broncos offered Talib.)
And if they wait out the process and try and pick him up if he’s cut, they would almost certainly be bidding against a series of teams like the Raiders and Browns who have a lot more cap space than New England has at this point.
If one was to read between the lines, if the Patriots would be interested in making a play for Revis, it would mean they would have to give themselves some financial flexibility. If you start to see names like Isaac Sopoaga hit the waiver wire on Wednesday, that would be a pretty fair indication that New England is doing whatever it can to create some cap room to accommodate the veteran corner.
It is worth mentioning that the Patriots do have some other options in free agency. Both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who recently ended talks with the Broncos) and Antonio Cromartie are on the market, as well as Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Walter Thurmond. (However, Jacksonville is considered the favorite to land Thurmond at this point, as former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is the head coach in Jacksonville.) In addition, this draft class is considered excellent when it comes to cornerbacks, with as many as five potential first- or second-rounders this year in Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Jason Verrett (TCU), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) and Bradley Roby (Ohio State).
But ultimately, none of those names would bring the same sort of star power to Foxboro. History tells us that it would be rare, but if the Patriots want to break with tradition go all in on a marquee cornerback, they could have their best chance to do it Wednesday.