As the NFL Trade Deadline dwindled down to its final moments, the New England Patriots traded for Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib. The Patriots gave up a 2013 fourth round pick for Talib and got a 2013 seventh round pick.
The subject of New England’s secondary has come into focus based on the 2011 season and the 2012 season for an abundance of yards surrendered in the air. Talib, a first round pick by the Buccaneers in 2008, looks to be an immediate starter – particularly with the recent release of cornerback Sterling Moore. Talib is a turnover machine with above-average ball skills, solid straight line speed and lots of talent in press coverage.
Unfortunately, this is a high risk move. A fourth round pick is a lot to give up for a player like Talib, who’s had numerous off-the-field issues including being charged with resisting arrest without violence and simple battery, as well as having a felony warrant issued for his arrest for allegedly firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend. Having him paired as a starting cornerback alongside Alfonzo Dennard, who was ejected from the Capital One Bowl for fighting and charged with third degree felony assault of a police officer, does not help the fabled image of “the Patriot Way.” Talib also has below average hips and effort concerns. With all things considered, this isn’t such a bad move by Greg Schiano – the corner would likely have been let go of at the end of the season, so they are happy just to get a pick for him. Also, Talib is still serving a four game suspension for using Adderall, so he cannot play this week (because of the bye) or next week.
The good news for the Patriots is that this allows the team to transition to a defensive alignment that best utilizes the talent on the team. Talib will likely take the left cornerback position, Dennard will man the right cornerback position, Kyle Arrington will man the slot, Devin McCourty can play free safety and Tavon Wilson or Pat Chung can play the strong safety or money role. The only wrinkle in this system is that Talib played a lot of Cover 2 in Tampa Bay – in fact, he played Cover 2 almost exclusively if I’m not mistaken. He might be the better fit at free safety, which is still a position he’d have to learn. My take is that this is a good trade; I’m totally in favor of any effort to improve this secondary. Regardless, this controversial trade has given everyone something to talk about.
You can follow Christopher Field on Twitter @ChrisDField.