At first criticized for sitting on their hands on the first day of free agency and letting Aqib Talib slip away to rival Denver, the New England Patriots made arguably the biggest splash move of the offseason by agreeing to a one-year $12 million contract with cornerback Darrelle Revis on Wednesday.
It only took New England head coach and general manager Bill Belichick a few hours to come to terms with Revis on a very cap-friendly and risk-adverse deal after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him. Still in his prime at 28, Revis immediately fills the void left by Talib and could even be the key to New England improving on a pass defense ranked 18th in 2013.
The Patriots are known for making smart, cap-friendly deals throughout Belichick’s era, and Revis now joins Talib and Randy Moss as top players signed for a bargain.
The Patriots are reportedly still looking for free agents to improve their secondary, and once again could take a flyer on a player with a checkered past. According to ESPN Boston, the team will meet with cornerback Brandon Browner on Thursday.
Browner was released by the Seattle Seahawks and he won’t be able to play the first four games of next season due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Browner made the Pro Bowl in 2011, and a groin injury limited him to eight games last season. He was suspended just before his return. At 29, Browner has three years of NFL experience after spending the majority of his pro career in the CFL. At his peak, he snagged six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns in 2011.
Before coming to terms with Revis, the Patriots may have had their eye on defensive backs like Antonio Cromartie, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Charles Tillman, according to the Boston Herald.
Denver chose Talib and former Cleveland Brown safety T.J. Ward over veteran Rodgers-Cromartie. Now seeking his third team in three seasons, the 27-year-old has only missed four games in his career and has 19 interceptions. Last year, he accounted for a $2.9 million hit to Denver’s cap, and it’s possible the Patriots sign him to a one-year deal like Revis, albeit at a much cheaper rate.
Though he reportedly met with Tampa Bay, Tillman is viewed as a free-agent gamble following a torn bicep injury that sidelined him for the final seven games of the season. An 11-year veteran with the Chicago Bears, the two-time Pro Bowler could be an attractive option in New England but health concerns and contract demands could force the Pats to consider alternatives. At 33 years old, Tillman is sixth among active players with 36 interceptions.
New England could snag another former New York Jet in Cromartie, who has been testing his value on the open market since his release. Cromartie reportedly wants to return to New York, as reported by the N.Y. Daily News, but his $5.4 million cap hit next season was too much for the team. Since he’s looking for the best offer available, Cromartie isn't expected to join the Patriots.