Should the New England Patriots elect to allow Aqib Talib hit the open market, there is no question he will be the best cornerback available bar none.
Talib was the Patriots’ best defensive back last season, but the team has a reputation for not overpaying in free agency. Case in point: Wes Welker.
In late January, ESPN reported that the Pats and Talib had a mutual interest in the cornerback returning. According to the report, the 28-year-old felt comfortable in Foxborough and had an appreciation for the organization.
That mutual interest was not mentioned when team owner Robert Kraft went on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz Show earlier this month. Kraft told the radio show “It’s not like we have unlimited funding. … (Talib) wasn’t on the field a lot of the time since he’s been with us. It’s a balance of us balancing all that out and what is he worth.”
New England could slap Talib with the franchise tag, which for cornerbacks would be close to $11.25 million for 2014. It’s a pretty steep cap hit for the Patriots, and the Boston Herald does not expect the organization to go in that direction. Comcast New England points out the team would rather sign him to a long-term contract, and ESPN Boston expects Talib to seek a three- to four-year deal worth between $6-8 million annually.
If the Patriots can’t re-sign Talib and opt not to use the franchise tag, there is expected to be a large market for the shutdown corner — even bigger than there was when he was available in 2013. Only a tainted track record would preclude a team from signing Talib, but he has been well-behaved under Bill Belichick since off-field incidents cost him his job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The San Francisco 49ers are going to need help in the secondary as the team is not expected to bring back Carlos Rogers, Perrish Cox, or Tarell Brown. Adding Talib would be an upgrade to an already stout defense, but it’s unlikely the Niners can afford him.
The Denver Broncos could also show interest. The team may lose Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, while Champ Bailey is about to turn 36. The team may want to both upgrade their secondary and get younger by adding Talib.
The Cincinnati Bengals are connected to a number of top corner prospects in this year’s draft, but with an abundance of cap space, the team could go after Talib. Leon Hall’s season came to an end after tearing his Achilles’, while Adam Jones and Terence Newman aren’t getting any younger.
Finally, the San Diego Chargers need to improve their defensive backfield this offseason, perhaps both through the draft and free agency. All three of the team’s corners finished among the bottom-10 corners, per Pro Football Focus, and Talib could be a step in the right direction for the contenders.