- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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In an ESPN.com Insider piece, KC Joyner picks five free agents that he believes are in the "buyer beware" category. Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib is fourth on the list.
Joyner points to the following metrics as the reason for a higher risk level with Talib:
1. In 2012, Talib ranked last in the NFL among cornerbacks in yards per attempt against (11.6).
2. Durability issues, as he has not played a full 16-game season in his six years in the NFL.
3. "Hit or miss" ball skills, as evidenced by him going without an interception in his final nine games of 2013.
Of the three categories, the second one is the primary factor that would concern me if I was on the other side of the negotiating table.
While Talib has given up some big plays (e.g. versus Steve Smith and Josh Gordon last season), part of that is because of the confidence the Patriots have in him, which in turn leaves him with less help/support. The Patriots build game plans, in part, around Talib's ability to match up with an opponent's top pass-catching threat with limited help. And I think Talib's ball skills are generally very good; if there is a pass that can be intercepted, he is not only adept at making the play, but also creating something that might otherwise not be there.
It's really the health, and to a lesser degree, the question of whether Talib's approach might at all be affected by having a bit more financial security.
Health questions aren't unique when it comes to top cornerbacks.
Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who signed a four-year contract worth up to $32 million on Monday, is one notable example of this. It's easy to forget now, but he was limited to one game in 2012 because of a season-ending Achilles injury, and played in 12 of 16 games the year before that. He's coming off a 16-game season in 2013, which paved the way for his extension.