Well, it's a good thing the Patriots didn't go out of their way to trade for Darrelle Revis.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced on Wednesday that they have released Revis, making him a free agent for the first time in his NFL career.
Revis was traded from the New York Jets to the Buccaneers for a 2013 first-round pick and a 2014 conditional pick last April (which is now a fourth-round pick, because Revis was not on the roster on the third day of the league year). The Buccaneers were trying to trade Revis as well, but could not find a suitor in time to avoid paying him a $1.5 million bonus.
Revis will have plenty of suitors on the open market. The question is, what will it take to sign him?
Apparently, it doesn't matter. Revis was reportedly headed to New England before he had even been released, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
Member of Darrelle Revis camp chimes in on if he thinks cornerback will end up on Patriots (assuming he's cut). "It's going to happen" #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 12, 2014
The Patriots released defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, as reported by ESPN's Mike Reiss, and added another $3.5 million in cap space. They now have $17,547,504 million to work with, according to Spotrac.
If the Patriots want to sign Revis, they have the money to do it, regardless of his asking price. And if possible, the Patriots should make it happen. Signing Revis would be an immediate upgrade over Aqib Talib, who signed with the Denver Broncos late Tuesday night. Revis may even be a better fit for the Patriots' scheme.
Talib earned a reputation for following a team's best receiver all over the field. Revis did that at a high level for years with the Jets.
He's not as tall as Talib, but his long arms help him remain effective in press coverage, and he is still one of the best in pure man coverage. He was not a fit for the Buccaneers' defensive scheme, which asked him to play a lot of zone coverage. The Patriots' Week 3 game against the Buccaneers was the first time quarterback Tom Brady has actually looked to take advantage of Revis in coverage.
In New England's situational, game-plan-versatile defense, Revis would be asked to hold his own in both man and zone coverage, but the Patriots also believe in playing to the strengths of their personnel.
Revis is far above Talib's talent level, but how far above from a financial perspective? That's the ultimate question that faces the Patriots. If they were anywhere close to a deal with Talib, whose new deal averages $9.5 million per year, they could (and should) be willing to go the extra mile for Revis.
He was paid a flate rate of $16 million per year on his contract with the Buccaneers, making him the highest-paid cornerback in the league by a long shot. He may average less on a new deal with a team that has a bit more negotiating leverage. At $12 million per year, Revis would still have the highest average salary of any cornerback in the league.
If the price tag is too high, the Patriots could also target free-agent cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but each one comes with his own set of circumstances. Cromartie would need to take a prove-it deal after an injury-plagued season that was one of the worsts seasons of his career. Rodgers-Cromartie announced during Super Bowl week that he was contemplating retirement, and the Broncos deemed Talib an upgrade as the two sides were working on hammering out a contract.
One reason to pump the brakes: As noted by WEEI's Christopher Price, the Patriots have never had a cornerback account for $10 million or more on the salary cap in any given season. There's no question they would have to clear that number in order to sign Revis.
There's also no question that Revis may be one of very few players to ever cross Bill Belichick's path that's actually worth the money. Revis is a transcendent talent, and if it means locking up one of the best cornerbacks in the game, he should be the top priority.
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