It's hard to imagine the Patriots were ever seriously in the running to retain cornerback Aqib Talib given the agreement Talib reached with the Denver Broncos -- six years, $57 million and $26 million in bonuses and guarantees, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Patriots weren't going to pay that, and given Talib's injury history, the team might have a more-understanding-than-the-norm fan base after losing such a key player.
A few initial thoughts:
Time to line up contingency plans. Could Darrelle Revis really be in play for the Patriots? I've considered it a long shot to this point, but Talib's defection, coupled with the Buccaneers' plans to release Revis if a trade can't be consummated, alters the picture a bit. I still think a more likely option is a free agent like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or even Cortland Finnegan, both of whom would likely come on shorter-term, lower-money deals. But depending on what market unfolds for Revis, the thought can no longer be dismissed as strictly a fantasy.
Franchise tag regrets? If the Patriots projected that this would be the market for Talib, one wonders if they might have more strongly considered the franchise tag on a one-year deal ($11.8 million), even though it would have been a big hit on their cap. This deal for Talib highlights how the cornerback market has exploded this year. I'm not sure many saw this coming after last year's buyer's market at the position.
Talib's presence will be missed -- on and off the field. The Patriots took a risk in trading a fourth-round draft choice for Talib in November 2012, but Talib was, by almost all accounts, a model citizen on and off the field in his 1.5 seasons in New England. Players and coaches noted how he brought a presence to the meeting room, and on the field, his ability to match up with opponents' top pass-catchers was something coaches built game plans around. It goes without saying, this is a big hit to the Patriots' defense.
Talib's football journey. Talib didn't reveal much about his personal side in his time in New England, but for Broncos fans curious for a closer look, here was Talib recapping his "football journey" from this past January. He was a great interview.
Denver's window vs. Patriots' long-range approach. There is a significant philosophical difference in the way the Broncos and Patriots build their teams, and this move epitomizes it. The Broncos were one of the NFL's most aggressive teams, in terms of free-agent spending, on Day 1 of the 2014 league year. And they might not be done, with former Cowboys pass-rushing stud DeMarcus Ware reportedly set for a visit. Last year, they also poached receiver Wes Welker from the Patriots. They are all-in. Those moves run in contrast with the Patriots' slow-but-steady approach.