Mike Reiss – Sometimes the New England Patriots lose players in free agency and it seems like an unwillingness to move enough off their negotiating stance is the primary reason. What unfolded late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning was something altogether different. When cornerback Aqib Talib reached a six-year, $57 million contract with the Denver Broncos that included $26 million in bonuses and guarantees, it was simply a case of another team taking things to the outer-most limits that didn’t seem possible when the process began. The Patriots weren’t going there because of Talib’s injury history, and when the emotion is stripped away from the shock of the team losing its No. 1 corner, can you honestly blame them? I can’t… “I don’t ever believe in selling your soul for a bowl of [porridge],” Kraft said recently on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Well, the Broncos just heated up one extra-large bowl of porridge.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Look, we go through this every March. The Free Agency period starts and it’s like Black Friday. GMs around the league go maniacally racing in for the Doorbuster deals while Belichick looks like he’s still in bed. It always feels like other fanbases get what they want this time of year, but for us it’s an exercise in patience, self denial and delayed gratification. Belichick might as well be trimming a bonsai tree while the John Elway is running around closing deals. And as always, he’s going to get hammered for this. We’re going to hear all the same annual bellyaching about how he got caught with his pants down and misread the market didn’t understand how valuable Talib is, yadda yadda yadda. Much of it from the same people who questioned him bringing in a “risk” like Talib in the first place.
But this wasn’t a case of Belichick getting blindsided or any such nonsense. He’s got a system and he’s sticking to it. It’s the same system that’s given us 13 years (and counting) of unparalleled success in an era where everything is set up to prevent that from happening. The system works. And a major component of that system is to not go throwing money around like a drunken sailor on leave. The Patriots knew exactly how much they were willing to spend on Talib. And it wasn’t $57 million with $26 million guaranteed, that’s for damn sure. Not for a 28 year old injury prone corner who can’t finish seasons, has a history of punching out teammates and cab drivers and might be a mental case. Not to mention all the times he got busted for pot in college and now he’s living in a state where it’s legal but banned by the NFL. Yeah, good luck with that, Elway. The bottom line is that Talib did a great job keeping the screwcap on his crazy in the year and a half he was in New England. And on the rare occasions he was 100% healthy, he was great. When he was any less than 100% he got flambe’d on a regular basis (witness the number Steve Smith did on him this year). It’s part of the reason he was available for a 4th rounder in 2012 and $5mil last year. Does that sound like a guy you give $57m/$26 GTD to? Not unless you’re into trading your soul for a bowl of porridge. And neither I nor Mr. Kraft nor Belichick believe in that.
So good luck in Denver, Aqib. Keep your head on a swivel. @JerryThornton1