Unless the New England Patriots want to roll with an undersized and undermanned secondary — like the olden days — they’re going to have to move on to their next option at cornerback with Aqib Talib heading to the Denver Broncos.
Whether the Patriots pay for Darrelle Revis or take the discount route with Antonio Cromartie or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is up to them, but both options have merit.
If the Patriots want to trade for Revis, or wait for him to hit free agency, they’ll have to spend — a lot. That might mean not being able to upgrade along the defensive front or at wide receiver. New England would be getting one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, so he’s obviously worth the price, but the Patriots’ limited cap room hurts them.
If Revis hits the open market, and he still wants to be paid like the best cornerback in football, another team likely will price the Patriots out of a signing. Revis wants to come to the Patriots, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports, but at what price? If he’s willing to take a discount to play for a winner, the Patriots should jump on signing him. (To be completely honest, when I wrote this, I didn’t know Aqib Talib was going to sign for $10 million.)
If the Patriots can’t — or don’t want to — land Revis, two perfectly good options remain in free agency. Rodgers-Cromartie actually has played better than Talib during stretches of his career. He’s taller than Talib and the same age, and he proved last season that he can be a No. 1 cornerback.
Cromartie is slightly older and regressed a bit last season. In 2012, however, he was still playing at the top of his game. Cromartie will come cheaper than Talib, Revis or Rodgers-Cromartie, but he’s a bigger risk.
Patriots fans are nearly having a heart attack over Talib leaving, and obviously the Patriots would be better with the cornerback than without him. But it’s not time to panic just yet, with players like Revis, Cromartie and Rodgers-Cromartie still available.
The Patriots weren’t going to match the contract the Broncos gave Talib (six years, $57 million with $26 million guaranteed). That’s a lot of guaranteed money for a player who has serious off-field issues on his resume.
The Patriots already have a talented base in their secondary with Devin McCourty at free safety, Alfonzo Dennard in the No. 2 spot, Kyle Arrington in the slot and Logan Ryan, with his limitless upside, as the wild-card No. 4. Now they just need to sign that No. 1, and the Patriots likely went into this offseason with a solid plan.
Whether the Patriots acquire Revis is up to him. The Patriots can maneuver around the cap if Revis is willing to budge, and if the Patriots are going to spend Talib money on a cornerback, it might as well be Revis.