Richard Sherman or Aqib Talib? Aqib Talib or Richard Sherman?
A year ago, a head coach or general manager might've had to call his primary care physician had that sort of dream scenario kicked around in his head for too long.
At the moment, though, those names might not elicit quite the same sort of excitement. Sherman is coming off of a season-ending Achilles tear. Talib just turned 32.
Still, if a team had its choice of the two . . . things could be worse. And it's a choice the Patriots could be facing should both Sherman and Talib shake free from their current contracts.
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Sherman certainly looks like he'll be playing elsewhere in 2018. NFL Media's Mike Silver said Sherman would be released by the Seahawks in the next couple of days. Talib, meanwhile, could be made a cap casualty as the Broncos look to clear some space for a quarterback.
The reason the Patriots might be able to choose between them? There's reason to believe they'd both like to be in New England for 2018.
Talib enjoyed his experience here, as did his teammates and coach Bill Belichick, when he served as the club's top corner in 2012 and 2013. ESPN's Dianna Russini reported on Wednesday that Talib may be nixing trades because he would like to be released in order to pick his destination. And that destination could be Foxboro.
Sherman, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, was so enamored with the idea of playing for the Patriots that last year he was reaching out to Patriots players in the hopes that they might be able to coax the team into dealing for him. Should those feelings still exist, one would think that he'd give the Patriots an opportunity to make a play this offseason.
Say they both hit the market. Who's the better fit?
Sherman has plenty going for him on paper. He's younger; he'll turn 30 later this month. He's arguably been the more consistent player over the course of his career, and he has the same number of picks as Talib (34) in three fewer seasons. But Sherman is coming off of a devastating injury that could render him a different player when we see him next. That's significant.
Talib is the older of the two, but he's had two of his best seasons on the wrong side of 30. Pro Football Focus graded Talib as their No. 15 corner in 2017. The year before, he was No. 3. Calling him the Tom Brady of the cornerback position might be a little strong -- no idea where he falls on the pliability spectrum -- but what he's done in Denver has been nothing short of impressive.
If money was no object, or if the two players were looking for similarly low-cost deals in order to play with Brady and under Belichick, then Talib would have to be the choice. He's been in the system. He picked it up in a matter of a couple weeks when he first arrived six years ago. And, most importantly, he's not coming off of a brutal injury. He should be the better player in 2018.
But this isn't fantasy land. (Although, admittedly, we're deep down a rabbit hole on two players who are still under contract in other cities . . .) Money will matter. What will they want?
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Talib is in a bit of a unique spot because there's no one his age playing the position as well as he has the last two years. Tramon Williams signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Browns three years ago as a 31-year-old, but he wasn't the player then that Talib is now. That same offseason, Darrelle Revis signed a five-year deal for $70 million as a 29-year-old. That money came from a Jets team desperate for a reunion (and desperate to keep him away from the Patriots) so the figure might've been inflated because of the situation. But the cap has gone up every year since then. Could Talib realistically swing a two-year deal for $25 million if the Broncos cut him loose? More?
Sherman's market would be a fascinating one to track as well. He just saw former Pro Bowl corner Vontae Davis -- who is the same age if not the same caliber of player when healthy -- sign a one-year deal with the Bills for $5 million and $3.5 million guaranteed. Davis was banged up last year, but he didn't have a torn Achilles. Should Sherman expect a similar payout? A prove-it deal for one year that would allow him to hit the market once again in 2019?
If that's the case, the author of the "You mad bro?" moment would probably make more sense for New England. It would be the kind of low-risk, potentially high-reward move that seems to slide across Belichick's desk every offseason.
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The Patriots could go into next season with Stephon Gilmore on one side, Sherman on the other, and with Eric Rowe in the slot. Sherman has been a staple in Seattle's Cover 3 looks throughout his career, and Gilmore is much more of a man-to-man corner, but if Belichick and his staff could figure out the mix it would be a long and rangy group that could make life tough on opposing passers.
Now, how do the Patriots view Sherman's personality fit? How do they view the depth in this year's draft class of corners? And would they be willing to eschew a free-agent cover man because they believe they could pluck one in the draft? We don't know.
But if it came down to that daydream scenario of Sherman or Talib, Talib or Sherman, the choice might have to come down to who is the better value -- especially with needs for the Patriots to fill at other positions. That would probably be Sherman.