One day after watching top cornerback Aqib Talib sign with the rival Broncos, the Patriots returned serve by acquiring the best player at the position, Darrelle Revis. Here's the fallout for Denver, New England and Revis' old team in Tampa
With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning headlining, the Broncos-Patriots game isn't exactly lacking for intrigue. It got some more anyway Wednesday.
One day after Denver swooped in and took top cornerback Aqib Talib from New England's secondary with the most guaranteed money ever at the position, the Patriots topped the move by landing Darrelle Revis, the best cover cornerback of his generation. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported it was a one-year deal for $12 million, a $4 million paycut from Revis’ contract with the Buccaneers, who curiously released him earlier in the day.
The Broncos defeated the Patriots in last year’s AFC Championship Game, and the two will meet in the regular season later this year.
The Patriots will make Revis the league’s highest paid cornerback. This is a bit of a departure for them. New England hasn’t paid top of the market for a player from another team since it signed Ravens outside linebacker Adalius Thomas in 2007. But desperate times call for desperate measures. With only Denver’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the Jets’ Antonio Cromartie as the top cheaper alternatives for cover cornerbacks, the Patriots decided to go all in with the best in the game.
It's hard to fault the Patriots for taking Revis over Talib, even at a higher salary. Revis is clearly better and much cleaner off the field. Now two years removed from ACL reconstruction, Revis is in top form.
Talib, who has always been talented, was an average cornerback before his trade from Tampa to New England in 2012. He got much more consistent in ’13, but while he rehabbed his troubled off-field image, Talib has never been able to escape the fact that he is not durable. Talib has never played 16 games in his seven-year career, and made early exits in the past two AFC title games and a showdown against the Panthers last season. Talib missed three regular-season games last season, and missed parts of two games in ’12.
Talib is certainly capable of being a very good player. He got the best of prime targets like Julio Jones (Falcons), Jimmy Graham (Saints) and A.J. Green (Bengals). But Talib also was on the short end against Steve Smith (Panthers) and Josh Gordon (Browns).
The Broncos will greatly enjoy Talib’s enthusiasm for the game, and his ability to keep his teammates loose and tough with his energetic play on the field. That’s something Revis, a bit of a mercenary, will not replace with the Patriots.
Revis was not used properly by fired Bucs coach Greg Schiano. Instead of taking advantage of his man coverage ability, Revis was often left in zone coverage. Once Schiano was fired, it was up to new coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht to determine Revis’ future.
“We have specific ideas regarding the best way to build this defense and, while you never like to lose a good player, we believe this is in the best interests of our team moving forward,” Licht said Wednesday.
Translation: There’s no way we’re paying a cornerback, whoever he is, $16 million like former general manager Mark Dominik did. And we don’t care about giving up first- and fourth-round picks because that didn’t happen on our watch. Have a nice life, Darrelle.
The problem is, after the contracts handed out to Sam Shields (Packers), Vontae Davis (Colts) and Talib, $16 million per season is not out of line for a player of Revis’ caliber. And it definitely won’t be as the cap continues to increase in coming years. And with no franchise quarterback weighing down their salary cap for the foreseeable future, the Bucs discarded the type of rare talent that can eliminate half a field for a defense. The best teams often try to acquire top talent and then fit the scheme to best utilize their skills. The Bucs had a premier player, paid him top dollar for one season, gave up the 13th overall pick and a selection in this year’s deep draft, and then released him and got nothing in return.