Good news as the Patriots secondary continues to be addressed in the first week of free agency. With someone like Talib, who brought off-the-field concerns along with injuries, I have no problem that it’s just a one-year deal. But it does make me think cornerback will still be a big target moving forward in free agency and the draft.
This certainly isn’t going to go over well with the “Talib is a shutdown corner who single-handedly saved our defense” sector of Pats fans, though perhaps they’re in need a of a little reality check.
A source with knowledge of the situation told Comcast SportsNet’s Mike Giardi that, while Aqib Talib displayed no behavioral problems during his time with the Patriots, the team has enough concerns over his work ethic to be somewhat reluctant to offer the star cornerback a multiyear contract. According to the source, Talib passed on the chance to do extra work at times this year and there are questions as to how he’d handle a long-term deal. The Pats, said the source, would prefer to sign Talib to a one-year, make-good contract.
The Patriots, realizing that Talib would not be returning, and cognizant of the way Baltimore’s Torrey Smith had torched Denver’s Champ Bailey one week prior, switched to a very conservative zone scheme that left the middle of the field wide-open. The Ravens, meanwhile, were well aware that Talib was out of the picture, and they opened the playbook and put the game in Flacco’s hands. In the first half, the Ravens had more runs (14) than passing plays (13), but they opened the second half with 25 passes and eight runs before adding 11 runs (and no passes) on their last two clock-killing drives. New England’s strategy slowed Flacco down, but they couldn’t keep him out of the end zone. He only averaged 10.6 yards per completion after halftime, but he also threw touchdowns on three straight drives. The first step for the Patriots is re-signing Talib in free agency, but even if they get that done, it’s not enough. As more and more teams use three wide receivers in their base offense, it’s going to be critical that teams have at least three starting-caliber cornerbacks on their roster.
After Welker, Talib will be the second major piece of free agency.
Regardless of the long-term ramifications of the injury, Talib certainly has bargaining power, particularly when it comes to the Patriots. He was able to shore up a sagging secondary, and provide a competitive presence at corner, one New England has been lacking for the better part of the last couple of years. Talib just wrapped up the final year of a five-year, $14 million contract he signed as a rookie, and traditionally, players consider themselves lucky to sign three deals over the course of their careers: Their rookie contract, where they make their name; their second one, where they make their money; and third; where they make their legacy. And with the list of available free-agent corners, frankly, this is as good a time as any for Talib to cash in.
Great game out of Talib and certainly one that bought him some leverage in contact talks this offseason. He could take another major step if he can shut down Torrey Smith next weekend.
Q: It looked like you matched up Aqib Talib with Andre Johnson. How beneficial is it to be able to match up a corner with a receiver like that?
BB: It was a great battle; it’s two good football players. Johnson is a great receiver. He’s arguably one or two all-time, he’s tremendous. He’s big, fast, has great hands, good route runner. Aqib competed with him every down, just like he did the first half of the first game. That’s two good football players and that’s a battle. We didn’t give him a lot of help. Johnson caught a few but Aqib battled him pretty well there. It was a good matchup.
Really interesting stuff…
Talib has surprisingly poor charting numbers since he joined the Patriots at midseason (9.3 yards allowed per pass and just a 38 percent Success Rate based on our current data), but the five games with Talib in the starting lineup were undoubtedly the best five-game stretch for the Patriots’ defense all season.
You can see the team’s improvement with each move, and then a decline when Dennard and Talib get hurt:
- Weeks 1-6 (McCourty and Arrington starting): 23.9% DVOA vs. pass
- Weeks 7-10 (Dennard and Arrington starting, McCourty moves to safety): 8.6% DVOA vs. pass
- Weeks 11-15 (Dennard and Talib starting, Arrington moves to nickel): 4.5% DVOA vs. pass
- Weeks 16-17 (Dennard and Talib injured, Arrington and McCourty start at cornerback again): 13.9% DVOA vs. pass
So maybe Talib will take the crappy offer the Pats make to him this offseason?
Well that sounds vaguely familiar…