I laughed when I first heard the rumor. Dismissed it as silly. Team generated faux leverage to try and keep down the price of Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
But what if this actually makes sense.
The Miami Dolphins just signed cornerback Brent Grimes to a four year deal for $32 million, or $8 million a season. Talib is considered to be on the same level as Grimes, so this price tag can be considered a fair level at which to evaluate the Patriots free agent.
So we'll set the price tag at $500k per game for the cornerback. For this price, you'd expect a fair degree of consistency and performance. Grimes rated out as Pro Football Focus's second best cornerback in 2013, and was extremely consistent. He graded out as having a "bad" game just twice all season and didn't give up a single touchdown.
But the more important thing was his consistency. Game-in and game-out he earned his pay check and provided above-average production. This is very different than Talib's 2013:
Talib's First 6 Games: 39.9% passes completed, 28.9 QB Passer Rating allowed, 9 INT/PD
Talib's Final 9 Games: 66.6% passes completed, 121.1 QB Passer Rating allowed, 2 INT/PD
Numbers from Pete Damilatis of PFF
That's a fall from grace. Talib started the season on a scorching, if not unsustainable pace, but the regression to the mean was more of a regression through the floor. After grading positively in five of his first six games, he met that mark just twice over the rest of the season.
That's not consistency. That's paying Talib for less than half of a season for quality games. If Talib wants to use the $8 million as his annual bench mark, then perhaps the Patriots should be viewing the investment as $1 million per quality game- because the rest of the time he left plenty to be desired.
Which brings us to Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, Pro Football Focus's #1 rated cornerback of 2013 (and 2011). He brings a price tag of $16 million per season, although he's willing to negotiate a little bit to come to a winning team (read: he still wants top money, but maybe it can slide down to $14-15mm).
Revis is a leader and he wants players to follow his example. He demands the best out of his teammates. He's also the best at what he does.
So when evaluating whether or not a player is "X" times more valuable than another, like we have been doing with Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga, perhaps we should be looking at Talib and Revis.
Revis brings dominant play to the field every game of the season. Talib has shown half of that.
Revis's price tag locks him in a $16mm, twice of the baseline of $8mm we're projecting for Talib.
$1mm per quality game for both Revis and Talib.
One just maintains it for the full season.
Now I'm 96.4% nothing will happen between Revis and the Patriots. While he is a dominant player, it's not in the budget to allot that hefty of a price tag on one player at an oft-injured position. Like Gronk, a healthy Revis will pay off his price ten-fold. But are you willing to risk that?
Do you want an elite season from Revis, or do you want a roller coaster season from Talib and an additional $8mm to invest in, perhaps, offensive guard Geoff Schwartz? I'll take the latter.
But when comparing the price tag of Revis and Talib, it's not that crazy to look at the above numbers. On a per quality game basis, they cost the same.
Is that enough to make the move for Revis?