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With the NFL season ending in disappointment for everyone except the Seattle Seahawks, teams are looking to take advantage of the offseason and restructure their rosters to build a championship caliber team. With the offseason also comes free agency and teams are faced with the difficult challenge of deciding which players are worthy of re-signing and which players to just part ways with.
The New England Patriots have some tough decisions to make this offseason. One of them being whether or not to re-sign cornerback Aqib Talib to a contract he deserves or to add him to the long list of players let go by the team because the Patriots were too cheap to re-sign them (Wes Welker, Adam Vinateri, Richard Seymour, just to name a few).
Even though some say the Patriots should focus on signing receiver Julian Edelman, the reality is the Patriots need to make re-signing Talib their number one priority. Talib makes more of an impact in his position and overall to the team. Although Edelman had a breakout season in 2013 becoming the Patriots number one receiver, it can be argued he is just a product of the system and replacing a slot receiver is easier than replacing a cornerback in New England. Talib, on the other hand, has established himself as one of the best shut-down corners in the league, especially in man to man coverage, trailing not far behind Richard Sherman.
Talib signed a one-year, $5 million contract before the 2013 season but is now one of the biggest free agents on the market. He has expressed his happiness with playing for New England and his hopes of staying with the team. Unfortunately for Talib, if history is any indication, he may not end up with the offer he deserves. The Patriots have a reputation of being extremely cheap when it comes to re-signing some of their best talents. Hopefully, the Patriots will prove us wrong and offer Talib a contract he will be satisfied with or we will be seeing Talib walk out the door. That scenario would be such a shame for the Patriots and its fans.
With that being said, Talib’s future with the Patriots is not looking great at the moment. Patriots owner Robert Kraft recently opened up to The Sports Hub about the team’s stance with the Talib situation.
“Well, we want to retain all the good players we can retain. It’s not like we have unlimited funding. He 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.”
Sounds like Kraft is trying to justify letting Talib walk, but lets hope I am reading in between the lines wrong. Kraft and Bill Belichick need to wise up, overlook Talib’s injuries and focus on the contributions he makes to the team when he is healthy and pay the man! Here is why the Patriots will not regret re-signing Talib.
Physicality and Production: As the Seattle Seahawks proved in the Super Bowl, defense wins championships. That is exactly why the Patriots need to open up its wallet for Talib. He is an athletic, physical corner with superior coverage ability and ball skills. In 2013, he had his best season of his career with four interceptions and earning himself the reputation as one of the best corners in the league. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and the 2nd All-Pro team last season and teams are taking notice.
There is no denying Talib’s production last season as he was able to pretty much single-handedly eliminate the opposing team’s biggest receiving threat week in and week out. He was able to shut out some of the league’s best receivers including Jimmy Graham and A.J. Green. Just taking a look at some of his numbers, Talib only gave up a completion once every 17.7 snaps in coverage, third overall in the league. It’s numbers like that that has dramatically improved the New England secondary and its ability to limit the production of an opponents biggest passing threat over the past couple of seasons.
Versatility: Another reason the Patriots need to re-sign Talib is because of the versatility he provides for the other players on defense. Since Talib’s arrival, Devin McCourty has been able to make the transition from a struggling cornerback to a much more successful free safety, a move that has benefited the entire secondary. This move has allowed the defense to experiment with more schemes that have resulted in more success.
One more important thing to remember is that the Patriots have been less than successful in drafting cornerbacks these past several years so replacing Talib could be a very challenging task. Although the Patriots might have found some talent with Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan, they have not started enough to be certain and those two have been anomaly picks. The Patriots are better known for their busts in cornerback drafting as they have failed miserably with picks such as Terrence Wheatly, Tavon Wilson and Darius Butler.
Financially, Talib could be more of an investment than the Patriots are willing make. Talib will most likely be asking for a deal that pays him among the league’s elite cornerbacks, a very justified request. If Talib can stay healthy and maintain his level of play, he will be well worth the investment.
The Patriots will use Talib’s injuries, especially in the big games, against him in negotiations. He has been sidelined the last two AFC Championship game because of an injury and after he left both games, the defense fell apart. He has also yet to play an entire season in his six seasons in the league due to injuries and suspensions. However, all the benefits that Talib brings to the team far outweighs his risk for injuries.
The Patriots might decide to throw the franchise tag on him to stall this process but that would only be a band-aid fix for the situation. Hopefully, the Patriots will look beyond the dollar signs and offer Talib a contract he will be satisfied with because he is too valuable to loose on defense.