- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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How's that for a contingency plan?
The New England Patriots took a big hit on the first day of free agency when top cornerback Aqib Talib defected to the rival Denver Broncos, but they've responded by capitalizing on an unprecedented opportunity, landing cornerback Darrelle Revis on a one-year deal worth $12 million, according to a report by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Some initial thoughts:
Patriots come out a winner on the field: Revis was the only available player that was an upgrade over Talib, who was excellent in his 1.5 years with the Patriots. The Patriots just got better at the position in 2014. Just as Talib was used as a matchup cornerback on a variety of different players in 2013, the Patriots can use Revis the same way, which creates more flexibility with defensive game-planning.
Short-term deal can be win-win: A one-year deal worth $12 million is a big hit on the Patriots' salary cap, but it's obviously a hit worth taking given Revis' status as one of the NFL's premier defensive players. The team's generally sound management of the cap put itself in position to capitalize on this unexpected opportunity, and now the Patriots can get a feel for working with Revis in 2014 and see if a comfort level develops on both sides to strike a longer-term agreement. It's similar to what the Patriots did with Talib last year, just at more than double the price. For Revis, a one-year, $12 million deal is greater than what a franchise-tagged player would receive and reflects his standing as a franchise-caliber player. Could he have received more guaranteed money on a longer-term deal elsewhere? Most likely. It will be interesting to hear him talk about his motivation for striking this deal.
Making an "outsider" the highest-paid player: The Patriots have traditionally been reluctant to sign a free agent from another team and make him among the highest-paid players on the team. The closest situation to that in Bill Belichick's tenure (2000-present) was in 2007 when they paid big for Adalius Thomas on a multi-year deal, a decision that ultimately didn't produce the desired results from a long-term perspective. But part of the reason there was comfort in initially doing so that year was because of a handful of veteran linebackers in the room (Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel) who were toward the end of their careers and were focused less on business and more on winning one more Super Bowl.
This time around, the one-year, shorter term with Revis probably creates more comfort for the Patriots in this area. Still, it will be interesting to see how Revis blends into a cornerback room that currently includes Kyle Arrington (sixth year), Alfonzo Dennard (third year), Logan Ryan (second year) and Justin Green (second year). We wouldn't be surprised to hear that Belichick gained important intelligence from his good friend, former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, about what Revis was like to work with behind the scenes.
Time to cool it on the spending talk: Some might view this as a break in character for the Patriots from a pure spending standpoint, but as we've detailed, that isn't the case. The Patriots have been spending over the salary cap in each of the past four years; they just haven't been getting as much bang for their buck as we've seen in earlier years of Belichick's tenure. With Revis, assuming he stays healthy (he's played all 16 games in five of his seven seasons), the odds are strong that the return on free-agent investment is about to improve dramatically. This is a coup.
Revis Island relocates to New England: Wow. This ranks right near the top of acquisitions in Belichick's tenure, joining an impressive list that includes Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The fun is just beginning.