The Patriots are in a bind with Alfonzo Dennard's felony conviction for assaulting a police officer. His sentencing won't be until April 11, more than a month after the team has to make a decision about the franchise tag and weeks away from the NFL draft.
With only three other cornerbacks under contract, including safety Devin McCourty, and two others bound for free agency, here are some options for the Patriots to deal with for this unfolding situation. Next
Rely on the young guys
The Patriots can, and should, expect more from safety Tavon Wilson. He'll be a second-year player next year. He was the team's surprise second-round draft pick in 2012 and played a limited role as the team's dime defensive back.
If Wilson can successfully move into a more prominent role, that could allow Devin McCourty to move back to cornerback, allowing McCourty to be paired at corner with two-year veteran Ras-I Dowling. Dowling has suffered back-to-back season ending injuries, but at one point he was envisioned as the team’s starting corner along with McCourty. Maybe that dream can be resurrected. Next
Splurge on Talib
The Patriots should definitely be considering the possibility of utilizing the franchise tag on cornerback Aqib Talib.
Talib, 27, has the ability to be a top corner, but he has had trouble staying healthy and has a considerable reputation off and on the field to consider. However, without a doubt, he has been the Patriots’ best chance at a shutdown corner since Asante Samuel when he was traded to the team from the Buccaneers.
Tagging Talib would cost the Patriots an estimated $10.7 million. With Talib back in the fold, the team can be secure in the fact that they have Devin McCourty to shift to corner, Ras-I Dowling returning from a thigh injury, and Malcolm Williams available. Next
Go the free agent route
There are plenty of cornerbacks on the market, including the Patriots’ own Kyle Arrington. The team reportedly has already expressed interest in talking to Arrington’s representation this week at the NFL Combine.
But there are other options in free agency. Some of the top cornerbacks on the market include Cincinnati’s Adam Jones, Miami’s Sean Smith, Pittsburgh’s Keenan Lewis, and Baltimore’s Cary Williams. Each could come at a bit of discount compared to a Talib, who is in a good position to demand more money from the Patriots than he’d likely see on the market. Next
Draft a corner, develop quickly
The Patriots can conceivably give the starting cornerback keys to a rookie. The last time they did that was in 2010 (Devin McCourty).
With five draft picks, including the 29th pick in the first round and the 59th overall in the second round, there are quality options for the team to pick up a valuable corner. Think North Carolina State’s David Amerson, a 6-2, 200-pound corner who went from a 13-interception season in 2011 as an All-American to a disappointing junior season in 2012. He is projected to land in the second or third rounds.
Or there’s Boise State’s Jamar Taylor (pictured, left), a redshirt senior was first-team All-Mountain West and was a part of a strong Broncos pass defense that was No. 4 overall in the country and gave up only three passing touchdowns. Because of his conference, the 5-11 corner who runs a 4.47 40-yard dash, is projected to be drafted in the second round.
There’s more than enough talent on the board for the Patriots to find a steal, much like McCourty surprised draft experts in 2010. It’s a much cheaper route. And combined with the team’s available assets on the roster, the Patriots could conceivably have a solid starting unit with one key draft pick. Next
Make a trade
While it’s unlikely the Patriots would make a trade for a core player, they have been known to trade draft picks. However, with only five picks in this year’s draft, that appears unlikely. Instead, the Patriots can use talented backups like quarterback Ryan Mallett (right), running back Brandon Bolden, and defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham as bait.
Replacing Mallett, who is a prized young quarterback, or Bolden and Cunningham, could come cheaply. But finding a trade partner who is willing to depart with a talented cornerback, much like Tampa Bay gave up Aqib Talib, is not nearly as likely. But never say never. Anything is possible. Back to the beginning
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