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analysis | Greg A. Bedard

Getting Talib a risky move by Patriots

Aqib Talib could be the final piece to  put the Patriots over the top in the pursuit of a Super Bowl title, writes Greg A. Bedard.

Tony Gutierrez/associated press

Aqib Talib could be the final piece to put the Patriots over the top in the pursuit of a Super Bowl title, writes Greg A. Bedard.

When it was first announced that the Patriots had acquired Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, it made sense for both sides.

The Patriots have a very well rounded team, but they are extremely poor at cornerback due to their own drafting and development problems. Talib, as much of a character risk as he is, could be the final piece to put the Patriots over the top in the pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

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And the Buccaneers had to be just about at the end of their rope with Talib, who is currently under suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Coach Greg Schiano could have released Talib after his suspension and Buccaneers fans probably would have cheered. And he is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

So it was a win-win for both sides. The Patriots got a rental who was instantly the most talented cornerback on the team – it was either Talib or another string of waiver wire trash – and the Buccaneers got something for a player they were going to let go after the season in all likelihood.

Now that we know the Patriots traded a fourth-round pick (and received a seventh back), I personally don’t like the deal as much. But if this season ends with a Super Bowl title, it’s obviously a terrific move. It does speak to the Patriots’ obvious desperation at the position.

“Are you kidding me?” one AFC personnel executive said when told of the terms. “A fourth-round pick for a character risk? How was Tampa Bay able to land that price? Who were (the Patriots) competing against?”

Another AFC executive said “it all depends” on if the Patriots win the Super Bowl.

“It’s a desperation move but the guy is lockdown corner, a good player,” he said. “Good press cover guy. But a complete and utter fool as a person.”

That’s why, as a low-round trade, the move makes a lot of sense. But by sending a fourth-round pick and signing Talib to a contract extension -- which is likely given the terms; you don’t send a fourth for a seven-game rental -- then the Patriots are essentially doubling down on a player who has consistently been a character problem before and after entering the league.

So we’ll have to see on final judgment of the trade. Now that Talib is here, that’s moot anyway.

What does he bring to the Patriots? Talib is a good man cover corner, which the Patriots lack. He’s big (6-1, 199) and has decent speed (4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the combine). A good athlete with good hands (played some receiver in college). His technique can be lazy, which usually points to work ethic problems.

Having Talib in the fold could lead to the Patriots leaving Devin McCourty at safety, where he has been most effective, and the team has benefited as well. A cornerback pairing of Talib and rookie Alfonso Dennard gives the Patriots a chance to play more press man. Kyle Arrington and Marquice Cole are currently the only slot corners on the roster.

As far as his character issues, several teams removed Talib from first-round consideration after he had big-time marijuana issues at Kansas. That followed on an incident in high school when he pawned a computer stolen by someone else. Had a daughter in June 2007 and said that matured him. And then his issues continued in the NFL: a fight at the rookie symposium, was suspended one game by the NFL for beating up a cab driver, had a felony warrant issued for assault with a deadly weapon (charges later dropped) and then the current suspension.

Talib instantly upgrades the Patriots’ cornerback position, which had fallen on hard times because of self-inflicted moves. If that leads to a Super Bowl title, it’s obviously a wise move.

If it doesn’t, and then the team doubles down on a huge character risk with a contract extension, then they’re playing with fire. Between Leigh Bodden, Chad Ochocinco, Albert Haynesworth and Jonathan Fanene (signing) the Patriots have not fared well lately trading for other people's trash. Talib is the next stop on the reclamation train.

It'd be easier to swallow for the rest of the year, but we'll have to see what transpires in the long term.

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