Yes, Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner is getting all the calls. But Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib is generating the buzz.
Talib, who hit the open market in 2013 after being traded from Tampa to New England during the 2012 season, signed a one-year, $5 million contract to stay with the Patriots last year. After a solid season and an extended stretch of staying out of trouble, Talib figures to cash in significantly.
And for good reason. The cornerback market has recovered significantly, thanks in large part to the spike in the salary cap and the return of a defense-wins-championships mentality to the NFL. With 30-something cornerback Brent Grimes getting $32 million over four years and Packers cornerback Sam Shields getting $39 million over four from the extremely-careful-with-money Ted Thompson, the top shelf could spring past $10 million per year, this year.
With Talib, the concern for some is whether a significant payday will provoke a return of the off-field concerns that helped run him out of Tampa. Thanks to the Aaron Hernandez debacle, the Patriots can’t make a huge investment of guaranteed money in Talib without risking an I-told-you-so moment if/when Talib finds trouble away from the field, again.
Washington, by multiple accounts, has emerged as a potential player for Talib’s services, given the connect-the-dots presence of former Bucs coach Raheem Morris as the defensive backs coach there. Morris, who once described Talib as a “wild child,” would have to believe Talib can be trusted to stay on the right path while millions are raining down. More importantly, G.M. Bruce Allen would have to be willing to make the investment of cash and cap dollars necessary to lure Talib.
Some think Allen intends to wait and shop for bargains, and to resist signing anyone to a big-money contract right out of the gates. If that’s the case, Talib becomes a player they won’t be pursuing — unless no one else signs him and he becomes a de facto bargain.
For now, it’s hard to know which teams are interested, because Talib’s camp isn’t leaking the phone logs to the media. Even without that info, it’s safe to say that plenty of interest exists. The question is whether a team will be willing to take the leap of faith that the Talib of recent months has trumped the “wild child” that wore out his welcome in Tampa.