All things considered, the New England Patriots have some decisions to make regarding their football team heading into the 2014 season. Some roster moves have already been made, as safety Steve Gregory and his $2.5 million salary for next year were sent packing. The intention of the transaction looked to be to free up salary cap space so the Patriots can make a splash in free agency, and big names like Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Logan Mankins are at the very least candidates to have their contracts restructured.
Hypothetically speaking, though, and without the brass exercising a franchise tag on any player, if the Patriots had to decide between Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib, whom should they choose? Before breaking this down, let’s stick with the current roster the Patriots have, which includes Danny Amendola and the four years left on his contract.
Amendola is one of the leading candidates to get released in Foxborough, due in all part to his large, lengthy contract, his proneness to injuries, his average season (54 receptions, two touchdowns in 12 games) and the emergence of Edelman. The fifth-year Patriot out of Kent State had a career year in 2013, hauling in 105 catches, 33 more than his previous four years combined.
Aqib Talib, acquired mid-season in 2012, proved to be the cornerback the franchise had long desired … when healthy. Talib was hampered by hip problems later in the season and when he was out, the defense stumbled, much like it did during the recent years when the Patriots never had a solid No. 1 cornerback.
Both were impact players and both will command long, thick contracts. If the Patriots have to choose between one of the two, I would have to go with Talib. He has yet to be a problem in the Patriots’ locker room and when he is healthy, the defense is clearly a step up to what it is without him. And if he is gone next season, youthful names like Alfonso Dennard and Logan Ryan are not going to strike fear into any opposing quarterbacks.
As for Edelman, he is a player any coach would admire, one who shows up every game and is versatile beyond belief. He will command at least the five-year, $28.5 million Amendola received a year ago and last year Edelman exhibited that he was really the only receiver Tom Brady could trust (besides the 5.5 games Rob Gronkowski played).
It will be unfortunate that Brady, who realistically has two good years left in his 37-year-old-to-be body, will have to begin another training camp without a reliable pass catcher. However, Brady has displayed he can work with no-names at the wide receiver position before. The defense on the other hand, has not demonstrated in recent years that they can win without a true No. 1 cornerback.