Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole talked with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss Aqib Talib  and other free agent defensive backs, and potential wide receiver options for the Patriots. The Patriots have three players on whom they could place the franchise tag: Talib, Wes Welker  and Sebastian Vollmer . Vollmer has had a lingering back issue, while Talib has a history of behavioral problems.
“Well the only one that I would even think about [franchising] would be Welker,” Cole said. “That’s if I want to pay him the $11.4 million. That’s the only guy I would think about.
“Vollmer. you just mentioned the back issue. … I think you can get him back at a fairly reasonable price if you want to get him back. Aqib, I would just never throw $10 million at Aqib Talib, guaranteed for one year. I would want to keep him, but I think he’s one of those guys who’s only going to get 7 or 8 million dollars out on the open market. … When’s the next blowup going to happen?”
If the Patriots do not retain Talib, they’ll probably look toward the free agent market.
“The market is not great,” Cole said, adding: “But you’re going to have some guys like Eric Wright  out there. You’re going to have Aqib, Sean Smith, some guys who are not quite worth that franchise tag. I’ve just got to say that if I’m guaranteeing $10 million to a guy who has had behavioral issues in the past and doesn’t have the greatest amount of self-control. Aqib’s former teammates in Tampa, they’d say, ‘Look, he’s great to be around 95 percent of the time, but when that switch in his head flips, and he loses control, he’s very difficult to manage and it gets really out of control.’ ”
While Talib’s talent is undeniable, his work ethic and behavior issues have to be a red flag.
“People in Tampa said that didn’t always grind it out,” Cole said. “But there’s a certain point where if he’s playing well, how much does that really make a difference? … [Work ethic] doesn’t concern me as much as giving guaranteed money to a guy who has only shown me a short period of time that he’s turned his life around.”
Likewise, if the Patriots do not keep Welker, they might look to replace him through free agency.
“[Greg] Jennings I really like because I think he would fit exactly what [the Patriots] are trying to do. He’s really smart, he’d pick it up really quickly. Their biggest problem is they don’t have an over-the-top threat. They don’t have anybody to stretch in the field vertically. Even with [Rob] Gronkowski healthy, he’s not the kind of burner who scares any big defense. … Maybe that’s Mike Wallace , maybe it’s [Dwayne] Bowe. More likely it’s Wallace, but Bowe is also another guy; he’s had his own behavioral issues, too. But you take a chance on some of these guys.”