Sports Illustrated’s Peter King created his list of top 50 free agents, and the New England Patriots big three was, as usual, well-represented. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer checked in at No. 14, Wes Welker cracked the top ten (ranked tenth), and Aqib Talib was rated King’s best cornerback and was ranked third overall.
Talib isn’t the best cornerback available, and I think the way he ranked the cornerbacks was ridiculous. I agree with most of what King said (including where he ranked Vollmer and Welker), but Talib isn’t better than Brent Grimes, who was ranked 23rd. Yeah, 23rd. And do you know who was 22nd? Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is the most inconsistent cornerback in the NFL and somebody who is set to get overpaid badly.
I think we can put Talib in that same boat, but Talib is clearly better than DRC (King got that one right with the CBs). Although he is also an inconsistent player who gets burned a bit too much, Talib has shutdown potential. However, potential is a dangerous word, and it’s the reason why Talib is rated so highly on free agent lists. I hope the Pats can keep him at an affordable price, but I am almost certain that he will walk- another team will simply pay him too much. If that’s the case, then I think the Pats are better off saving that money and signing an under-appreciate corner like Chris Houston; someone who is far more consistent. Grimes, Houston, and Talib are my top three corners- in order- this offseason. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see Houston on King’s list.
Now here’s where things really get interesting, and where I want to end my rant about cornerbacks this year. King tabs Ed Reed, Wes Welker (to stay), Dwight Freeney, and Osi Umenyiora as fits for the New England Patriots.
1. Welker- Yeah, he’s best off staying in New England, and I hope he figures that out quickly. Welker doesn’t need Tom Brady and the scheme, per se, but there is no doubt that he won’t have nearly the same success outside of New England. On top of that, the Patriots provide a place where Welker can maintain a legacy. He probably won’t have a great market, and I have a feeling a slight raise in money from another team won’t justify him leaving. Welker deserves to seek as much money as possible and get an actual pay day, but I just think he will find out his best options are in New England.
2. Ed Reed- The Patriots could offer Ed Reed $5 million based on a report about a week ago, and that’s just too much money. Even Baltimore Ravens fans don’t think Reed is worth that much, and I don’t care how much Bill Belichick and Reed like each other- that’s not worth it. Reed should join the Pats on a cheaper, one-year deal as a stopgap to allow Tavon Wilson to grow at strong safety. I don’t think Reed is a great fit, and the best way he fits is as a stopgap for a younger player who can be a viable starter at safety for a significant amount of time.
3. Dwight Freeney- This is a guy I want the New England Patriots to sign, because the pass rush could definitely use a boost. Chandler Jones is the team’s only consistent pass rusher, as Rob Ninkovich is more of a run-stuffer and provides his pressure in short (but effective) bursts. Freeney would be a great fit for New England as a veteran pass rusher spending a few quality years with the Pats, and playing as a sub-package pass rusher will also help prolong his career. The price needs to be right, but the Pats could do well to pick Freeney up.
4. Osi Umenyiora- Honestly, I don’t know how much Osi has left in him, and I don’t think the financial impact of a deal with him will amount to the desired production for the Patriots. I would much rather focus on Freeney than Umenyiora, and that’s mainly because I am worried about how much Umenyiora would cost. If he comes relatively cheap, then the Pats should see what they can do.
Despite some of my disagreements, King’s piece is well-worth checking out, and I hope you enjoy discussing and pouring over the players he tabs as the top 50 free agents this year.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.