The New England Patriots got a bargain last offseason when Aqib Talib agreed to remain with the team under a one-year, $5 million deal. Talib has reestablished himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league since being traded to New England from Tampa Bay, though his history of off-field problems is still a concern.
From the sound of it, there will be no discount for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported on Tuesday that Talib is looking to be paid as a “top-of-the-market” cornerback in free agency. He may be the best remaining player at the position after Brent Grimes signed his four-year, $32 million extension with the Miami Dolphins.
There is no question that Talib changes New England’s defense when he’s on the field. His ability to shadow and shut down top opposing receivers allows the Patriots to focus their efforts elsewhere when he’s in the game. When he is not (like in the AFC Championship Game), their secondary gets picked apart.
In addition to his history of off-field issues, teams may be concerned about the hip injury that hampered Talib at various points during the 2013 season. Hip injuries and defensive backs are a bad combination, but it is a positive sign that Talib did not need offseason surgery.
The Patriots have until next Tuesday to work out a deal with Talib before he hits free agency. Howe speculates that they could look to sign him to a three-year contract in the range of $7 million per season, but that would be shy of Grimes’ deal. Talib will likely be looking for something comparable to the $16 million in guaranteed money Grimes got from the Dolphins.
Talib remaining in New England would make sense for both sides. He has fit in with Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme perfectly and given the Patriots the shutdown corner they have been lacking since Asante Samuel left town. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to get paid like the elite player that he is.