In terms of points per game, the Patriots had the 10th best defense in the league last season—a superstar away from becoming elite. Just hours ago, the Patriots signed that superstar, cornerback Darrelle Revis, to a contract worth one-year, $12 million.
Revis, despite tearing his ACL two-years ago, is still considered the NFL’s best cornerback. Elite cornerbacks are rare. There are only a handful of players that can line up against an opponents best wide receiver and completely take them out of the game. Former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, when healthy, was one of those guys. And these players can really make a difference.
To get an idea of how much of an impact Revis will have, look at Talib’s best games as a Patriot. During weeks 1-6 last year, the Patriots defense allowed an average of just 16 points per game, which would have been good enough for third lowest in the league. During that time, Talib was matched up against some of the best receivers and shut them down, holding Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Jimmy Graham to a combined 6 catches for 62 yards in consecutive weeks.
And Revis is better, more consistent, and healthier than Talib. According to Pro Football Focus, which uses advanced metrics to ranked the top players, Revis was the second best coverage cornerback to Richard Sherman and the best overall cornerback in the league last season, despite coming off an injury.
Great corners like Revis are very important for a defense. The NFL has become a passing league and to have a good ‘number one’ cornerback who can take out an opposing teams best receiver single handedly can make all the difference. Without an elite corner, teams have to put either and extra defender on an opponents best receiver or give them extra safety attention, which opens up weakness in other areas. With Revis, teams do not have to. Revis usually dominates when put against a teams best defender in single coverage, which is why opposing receivers are said to be on “Revis Island”. This allows the defense to be able to focus more on stopping the run or other receivers, giving an opposing offense less options.
The Patriots were able to get this type of skill set at great value. They could have put the franchise tag on Talib and paid him $200,000 less this season then what they are paying Revis—even though Revis is a superior coverage corner with little health risk. They also could have traded for Revis and paid him $4 million more than they are paying him right now. Since they are paying relatively little for arguably the best cornerback in the league, it still allows them to go out and possibly sign another free agent.
With the addition of Revis, and Wilfork and Mayo coming back from injury, the Patriot’s defense should make the jump from slightly above-average to Super Bowl caliber. Darrelle Revis was exactly the signing the Patriots needed to ensure they could once again compete for a championship.