Judging by the assorted yelps and howls I heard on sports radio on my way in (hey, I get paid to listen), that photo represents the collective daydream of a vocal segment of Patriots fans as free agency dawns today.
Get Darrelle Revis.
Get Steve Smith.
Get out the checkbook!
Get a fourth Super Bowl for Tom Brady before the window closes!
I get it at a fundamental level. Realistic conjecture is a fun aspect to following sports; imagining an excellent player or another joining forces with the team you root for is a big part of being a fan, particularly when you are a kid. I’m still waiting for the Red Sox to trade Carney Lansford for George Brett.
The tampering/free-agency silly season — something the NFL has turned into a genuine event, like baseball’s hot stove — is supposed to be fun, and for the most part it is. Haven’t we all been pining to see Larry Fitzgerald catch Brady’s passes since, I don’t know, he was a sophomore at Pittsburgh? Heck, I think I’ve been drawing up ways — some even based in actual logic — for the Red Sox to acquire Giancarlo Stanton since he was answering to Mike.
Sometimes those imagined transactions become reality (Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox … I know), some just hover unfulfilled through the years (the Mariners seem oddly intent on keeping Felix Hernandez), some are orchestrated dishonestly to get the phones ringing (“If Hoodie doesn’t get two Calvin Johnson clones, this offseason is already a failure, caller!”), and some morph from fantasy to potential reality in the time it takes to read 140 characters.
Two teams to watch on CB Darrelle Revis once Tampa releases him: Philadelphia and New England (Jets fans shudder).
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
So there it is — the possibility that Revis, such a worthy rival during his time with the Jets, could join the Patriots once the Bucs shed him and his $13 million base salary if they don’t deal him first. (There’s no way the Patriots trade for him.)
I’m skeptical Revis, who will be 29 when the season begins, ends up in Philly, which is still recovering from the Nnamdi Asomugha disaster and may be out of the high-end cornerback market for a while.
I’m more skeptical Revis ends up with the Patriots for one reason: There is a ridiculous amount of money out there in free agency. The Raiders, for instance, have roughly $65 million to play with. The Browns also are well under the cap. The Patriots are in the middle of the pack.
As my colleague Ben Volin calculated a few days ago, the Patriots could pursue Revis without requiring illogical adjustments to certain players’ salaries. It’s doable, which takes it out of that daydream realm.
But there will be no bargain to be had here — I cannot think of any contemporary of Revis’s who has been more chronically focused his contract. He’s Rod Tidwell with bad hands. He’s about the money.
I suspect he’ll end up somewhere where his bank account swells with a fat new up-front bonus, with the chance to go to a Super Bowl a distant second among his considerations. Hopefully he doesn’t find both away from the Patriots and end up with the Broncos as Champ Bailey‘s successor for the next decade.
No matter whether they do or do not end up with Revis or retain Aqib Talib by 4:02 p.m. today, I hope we can resist the temptation to suggest they weren’t aggressive enough in free agency.
It annoys me no end — because it’s wrong — that the Patriots’ won’t spend money in free agency. They’ll spend if the player fits a certain criteria, like Rosevelt Colvin in 2003 — he’s young, already accomplished and still ascending, smart, fits what they are trying to do, and may be even a little unsung.
I wouldn’t know the guy to the left here, Titans free-agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, if he horse-collared me in the line at Dunkin’s this morning. But based on what those who know him says about him, he certainly seems to fit the profile of what Bill Belichick covets in a player.
If the Patriots end up with Verner, but not Revis or Talib, I suspect that would be treated as a lost opportunity by many, and that’s foolish. Signing Talib for $4 million to $6 million less per season than Revis also would be a good thing — it allows them to secure another quality player or two. Maybe it’s the difference in whether Julian Edelman returns or not.
Just to entirely ruin the daydream in the hours before the frenzy begins, this much needs to be made clear: signing Steve Smith would be ridiculous. He’s 35, slowing down, has punched out two teammates that we know of, and really has little value beyond name recognition. He’d make a swell Jet.
Maybe the Patriots will surprise us and do something of note today. But history seems to suggest they won’t, and that’s fine too. Big spending assures a day of headlines and nothing more. The Patriots don’t have to sign the big names to make that fourth championship possible. They just need to sign the right ones, whether that’s today or in the less dramatic tomorrows to follow. Find the Vrabels, not the Beisels, you know?