Apparently, this is why you never panic.
When star cornerback Aqib Talib left the Patriots late Tuesday night for their AFC rivals in Denver, courtesy of a six-year deal worth $57 million with $26 mil guaranteed, it sent shockwaves throughout New England. Aided by DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, the Broncos were loading up for another Super Bowl run, while the sky was falling in Foxborough.
Less than 24 hours later, a gust of fresh air blew through Tom Brady’s championship window.
The Pats have signed five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro Darrelle Revis to a one-year contract, good for $12 million.
Earlier this week, I wrote that the Pats would be better served to retain Talib than chase down Revis, but the circumstances surrounding that column have changed.
For starters, at that time, Revis was under contract with Tampa Bay for a non-guaranteed five more years at a hefty $16 million per. That was a steep price to pay for a guy known for maximizing his earnings to the point of multiple holdouts, plus a trade for his services would have required draft pick compensation. When he was released by the Buccaneers on Wednesday afternoon, he hit the free agent market with nothing guaranteed to him or anyone else.
And, arguably more important, the option to pick between the two no longer existed. Talib was gone, overpaid by Denver to rebuild a suffering defense. Bill Belichick’s bunch had to react, and it nabbed not only the best available option but also the best option.
There was never a dispute over who was the more skilled cornerback. The 28-year-old Revis takes that title over Talib or any other corner in the game. The question was over the new but supremely talented guy with a bloated contract versus the familiar one who’d already proven to be a game-changer when healthy.
In a year where the market for cornerbacks absolutely exploded, a one-year deal for Revis is perfect. It’s the ultimate feel-out deal for both sides. If it works – and here’s hoping it does – perhaps he and the Patriots will work out a long-term pact, or he’ll set himself up to hit the open market and cash in with more guaranteed dollars up front than he received from the Bucs. After all, the salary cap is still climbing. If it doesn’t, no harm done, short of letting Talib walk west for a few extra years. Better yet, it cost essentially the same money that would have been required to franchise Talib ($11.8 million). If asked who you’d rather have at basically the same price, that’s a no-brainer.
In Revis, the Patriots get an incredibly smart defensive menace, and a durable threat who has appeared in 16 games in five of his seven seasons, including a 2013 campaign spent dealing with the lingering physical effects of ACL surgery. The biggest knock on Talib, of course, is his ability to stay on the field, well-evidenced in each of the last two AFC Championship bouts.
Revis’s impact on the field is visible both to the eye and on the stat-sheet, even for a lousy team in Tampa. According to ESPN’s stats department, the Bucs improved from last in the league in pass defense in 2012 to 17th a year ago and they jumped from 31st in the NFL in 20-yard completions allowed to a tie for eighth. And, as noted, Revis wasn’t even playing at 100 percent, given his previous knee injury. In his last five years with the Jets, opposing quarterbacks completed just 56 percent of their passes with the shutdown corner on the field. Revis has the potential to be a one-man wrecking crew.
There’s much work still to be done to keep pace with the Broncos for a team that needs help rushing the passer, at safety, on the defensive line, and most certainly alongside Brady, but this move is one giant step in the right direction for a Patriots squad that’s made two Super Bowls but failed to win in nine years. If one man can in fact make a difference, most people believe this is the guy.
With around $5 million available in cap space, it will be interesting to see what the Patriots do next in terms of salary cuts and restructurings as it pertains to captain Vince Wilfork and others but, for now, grab your sunscreen. The plane to Revis Island is boarding.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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