Maybe it was a slap in the face or a kick in the rectum, but boy did it work. Taking Wes Welker a year ago amounted to little more than a tug on Superman's cape; It didn't faze Bill a bit. It almost seemed Bill thought you were doing him a favor taking a prankster off his hands.
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The drubbing the Bronco's gave the Patriots in the conference championship game two months ago got Belichick's attention. He dropped a clue to his feelings in the way he described Talib's game ending injury as Welker's "most vicious hit" on Talib. A very uncharacteristic outburst by Bill.
But the final straw, the in-your-face challenge to battle, came with Elway's lightening signings of Aquib Talib, T. J. Ward, and DeMarcus Ware. Those three players alone totaled $110 million with $60 million guaranteed, so it was reported (smirk, it seems Mr. Elway is very clever with player contracts and the actual guaranteed number is $35 million). The old saw about believing half of what you read seems hopelessly out of date in terms of initial player contract information.
Elway sent a message, and the Patriots got it...finally. The Talib signing, the second year in a row where the Bronco's signed the Patriot's best free agent, was particularly troubling for the Patriots. I believe the Pats thought they could match any offer Aquib would get on the open market. But $57million with $28 million guaranteed was a spectacular offering that the Patriot's would never beat, even if they had the time to make a counter offer, which they didn't. Elway didn't give them a chance. (As noted in the link above, the reported guaranteed money was false, and it turns out to be only $11.5 million.)
Fortunately, Belichick had a plan B... and C and D. He patiently waited for Tampa Bay to cut Darrelle Revis then quickly agreed to a deal with Revis to replace Talib. This was followed by rapid deals with Brandon Browner, Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman. The experts are giving Denver the edge over the Pats in the free agent duel, but I am not convinced.
Revis, in the view of many, including most Patriots' fans, is the best 1 or 2 rated shutdown cornerbacks in football. Talib is excellent, but, with his injury history, the edge definitely goes to the Pats. Brandon Browner is an excellent cover corner and will give the Patriots their best cornerback quality and depth in the last 15 years. Resigning Edelman and signing LaFell will be a significant upgrade to the receiving corps although I concede Denver still has a marked advantage in receiving. The Pats, however, will be much improved over last season.
The point here is Elway is playing chess. Check out his most recent signing of Emmanuel Sanders, reported by Kyle Montgomery@milehighreport, as more evidence of this. I think Belichick and Kraft finally understand. They need to step up their game. The rest of the league is playing checkers and crying in their beer.
Time to make a deal for Jarred Allen.