Although I still think the New England Patriots would have lost anyway, it’s clear that the complexion of the game was changed when Patriots star cornerback Aqib Talib went down with rib and knee injuries in the second quarter of yesterday’s 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos. Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos offense were clicking even with Talib on the field, but Peyton Manning and the four horsemen just ran rampant once Talib was injured. It was deja vu for the Patriots, as the same thing happened last year in the team’s AFCCG loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
With the Patriots now out of the playoffs after an incredible run despite all the injuries they faced, the focus turns to the offseason. There is no bigger impending free agent than Talib, who was a free agent last year before ultimately signing a one-year, $5 million prove-it deal last offseason. While Talib could have signed a long-term deal, it’s clear that he was betting on himself to have a solid campaign in 2013 and get a huge contract in 2014. He certainly played well and was given a great deal of accolades, but he might not receive a long-term deal due to injuries, with a nagging hip woes being particularly concerning. Talib actually played in 13 games, so his injury concerns aren’t as big as they may seem at first. But the concerns are still there, and it will be interesting to see how it affects his price tag.
In all honesty, the injuries are great news for the Patriots, who don’t like paying top dollar for free agents and could avoid paying Talib as much money as they would have. The Patriots do an excellent job of signing injury-prone players to solid contracts, and my bet is that the Patriots will end up keeping Talib in New England. ESPN Boston’s Field Yates reports that there indeed seems to be mutual interest between both parties, and it’s unsurprising to hear that Talib wants to stay with the team that has allowed him to blossom. It’s also unsurprising to hear that the Patriots want to keep a No. 1 corner who excels in press coverage. I’ve been critical of Talib for getting burned too often and also believe some people overrate him, but there’s little doubt that he’s a great corner and somebody the Patriots need to try as hard as possible to keep.