With Aqib Talib possibly leaving in free agency, the New England Patriots could well be in need of a starting outside cornerback. Alfonzo Dennard can comfortably man the outside, but under no circumstances should Kyle Arrington be allowed back there. Talib fit decently on the outside; he was a very hot and cold corner who could make fantastic athletic plays as often as he got scorched. However, when he got here, the secondary play as a whole vastly improved. The value wasn’t so much Talib, but rather the position being upgraded so as to a) get rid of Sterling Moore b) move Arrington to the inside c) shift Devin McCourty to free safety and d) give Dennard a starting role. Although Talib might be welcomed back, he is a replaceable commodity.
The list of free agent corners for 2013 is not pretty. Talib heads the list, with Chris Houston and Derek Cox being the only other two corners who are even acceptable.
I feel that Houston would be the better choice of the three, not only because of his play but because of his price. Although Houston’s play has been only slightly above average, it’s stuck out enough to me that when he gets beat, it’s usually a hard-fought victory for the wide receiver or simply an indefensible throw from the quarterback. He also plays the run well – which Talib did – and that’s very important for New England’s scheme. He does not typically make the plays Talib does, but neither does he have the penchant for allowing 100-yard games to receivers (zero 100-yard games allowed in 2012, two in 2011, zero in 2010, one in 2009, two in 2008).
However, he only had two interceptions last year and his name inspires no more of a reaction than “oh, that guy, right.” I don’t know if the Detroit Lions are intent on resigning him, but if not, the Patriots should consider him as a cheaper, perhaps more consistent alternative to Talib. Derek Cox isn’t as good and Talib isn’t as cheap. Sometimes it’s best to take the middle ground.
You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.