Once the three-day legal tempering period preceding the NFL’s free agency opens next week, the scramble to sign talented players about to hit the open market officially begins. Among the players to be courted will be cornerback Malcolm Butler, who is expected to leave the New England Patriots via free agency. Consequently, the reigning AFC champions will need to replace the three-year starter and former Super Bowl hero.
Free agency is the first chance the Patriots will get to do just that – and a familiar face might be on their list of targets: Aqib Talib, who called New England his home in 2012 and 2013. The 32-year old, who joined the Denver Broncos after the 2013 season, is scheduled to hit the Denver’s books with $12.0 million next year and is expected to get moved in order to generate additional cap space for his team.
According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, the Broncos are currently in trade conversations with the San Francisco 49ers. However, the door also appears to be open for Talib to land elsewhere:
I’m told there had been trade conversations going on between the Broncos & the 49ers for Aqib Talib. It doesn’t look like it’s going to get done. Told Talib prefers to be released by Denver so he can chose his next team, his top choice is the New England Patriots per sources
Last month, the Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coincidentally the only two teams Talib played for before joining Denver, already were reported as the favorites to acquire the five-time Pro Bowler in case he got released. With a release a realistic possibility now, it would not be a surprise to see New England take a close look at its former number one cornerback.
After all, the Patriots seem like a solid landing spot for Talib, who played 23 games for the Patriots and grew into one of the NFL’s best man-to-man corners during his tenure with the team. Of course, the financial aspect cannot be ignored either: Would the team consider adding another potentially highly priced piece to a cornerback depth chart that is headed by $12.5 million man Stephon Gilmore?
Overall, the Patriots have allocated $15.3 million to the four cornerbacks currently part of the top-51 players under contract. Talib would certainly become a fifth and likely cut significantly into New England's current salary cap space of $23.37 million. Then again, he would add a high quality presence to a defensive backfield that will likely see one of its starters leave next week.