Aqib Tali – He’s been equally as busy filling up the police blotter as much as any stat sheet since coming into the NFL, but there’s no denying Aqib Talib’s immense talent.
But the New England coach Bill Belichick gambled that Talib will buy into the Patriots way of doing things and help his team reach the Super Bowl when he gave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a fourth-round draft pick for the troubled cornerback on Friday.
With the move, New England addresses a glaring need by shoring up a suspect defensive secondary with one of the game’s top lockdown corners.
The Patriots are idle this weekend before awaiting Buffalo at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 11. Talib, however, still has one more game left of a four-game ban for the use of performance-enhancing drugs and won’t be available for his first Patriots action until the team hosts the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18.
Belichick is hardly a stranger at taking risks on certain players of varying degrees of questionable character in the hopes that they fall into line on a team full of decorated veterans with strong personalities. Former Bears nose tackle Ted Washington and Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss immediately come to mind as both proved to be solid citizens as well as on-field contributors for New England.
But Talib, a 26-year-old former first-round draft pick, might be Belichick’s biggest reach yet. He’s been a career malcontent, starting in college at the University of Kansas and extending through his four-year stay with the Buccaneers.
His many troubles have been well-documented, starting with his fistfight with fellow Buccaneers rookie Cory Boyd at the NFL rookie symposium in July 2008. On August 20, 2009, Talib allegedly battered a taxi driver, and he was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol and charged with resisting arrest without violence and simple battery. In March 2011, police in Garland, Texas issued a felony warrant for Talib for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after accusing him of firing a gun at his sister’s boyfriend. He was later released on $25,000 bond. Talib was indicted on the charge in May 2011. The charges were later dropped.
But future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady may have summed things up best about the expectations awaiting any new addition to their team.
He’s “I think there is an expectation that when you come in here, you have to represent this organization the right way,” Brady was quoted as saying in a radio interview.
“If you’re a bad guy, you’re not going to be around. If you’re not going to fit in, you’re not going to be a very good football player. We’ve had so few of them over the years that just don’t really work out. You come in and the expectation is to win, so it should be all about winning. If your attitude is somewhere else, then it’s hard to find a group to hang out with here. You end up kind of being a loner and you don’t enjoy it very much, because you have to worry about winning football games.”
The addition of Talib gives New England added flexibility in the defensive backfield. Long and aggressive, the 6-foot-1 defensive playmaker is strong enough, skilled enough and athletic enough to play even the best receivers he faces without safety help over the top.
Tampa Bay used him as a match-up cornerback, meaning he would align to whatever side of the field the opponent’s top wide receiver could be found.
Belichick could be getting a steal for a fourth-round pick. Or a major headache.