The New England Patriots have called in the cavalry for their struggling secondary. In a trade deadline shocker, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they dealt troubled cornerback Aqib Talib to the Patriots.
The Buccaneers have traded CB Aqib Talib to the New England Patriots. More details to follow.— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) November 1, 2012
Talib was acquired for a fourth-round pick, and the Patriots also received a seventh-round pick in return.
Given Talib's long history of off-field issues—he had marijuana issues at Kansas, he is currently serving a suspension for testing positive for Adderall, and was under investigation for assault with a deadly weapon this summer before the charges were dismissed—this could be his last opportunity to get it right.
Talib's contract runs through 2012, making him a free agent after this season unless the team re-signs him to a long-term deal. Given the price New England paid to bring him in, that seems likely.
For now, though, the trade has major implications for the Patriots secondary.
It looks like Devin McCourty's trip to safety land could be a permanent stay. The team had expressed a desire to keep him at safety previously, but it seems the plan changed when the Patriots realized their lack of talent at cornerback.
With injuries to both Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory leaving the Patriots thin and with plenty of questions at safety, the McCourty move was expedited.
That, however, left the Patriots thin at cornerback, especially following the injury to cornerback Ras-I Dowling that landed the second-round pick on injured reserve for a second consecutive season, as well as the recent release of cornerback Sterling Moore.
Alfonzo Dennard, once the team's fourth cornerback, has become a starter. Dennard, Marquice Cole and Tavon Wilson have all increased their snap percentages over the past three weeks, an indication of the team's depth issues in the secondary.
Talib has shown loads of potential in the past, but for whatever reason—poor scheme fit, lack of effort, or anything else—what we've seen recently gives no indication of the player he was drafted to be.
This year, he has allowed completions on 24 of 36 passes into his coverage (66.7 percent) for 399 yards, logging six passes defensed with one touchdown and one interception, according to ProFootballFocus.com. His cumulative passer-rating-against on the season is 101.5.
Talib is better in man coverage than zone coverage, so the trade might indicate that the Patriots are looking to play a little more man coverage on the back end. Talib certainly has the physical acumen, at 6'1" and 199 pounds with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2008.
Talib may team up with Dennard to form the Patriots' man coverage tandem at the top of the depth chart.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe sheds a little more light on his strengths and weaknesses:
Another league source said Tailb is a "good player," a "lock-down corner" but with huge character issues, including work ethic.— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) November 1, 2012
Talib can also play the "money" position vs TEs. Some Bucs players touted his ability to do that for 1 of my TE preview issue stories— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) November 1, 2012
Whether those traits keep him in New England for the long term remains to be seen, but pass defense has been the major point of emphasis for the team this season, specifically the deep ball, where they have given up a league-high 42 passes of 20 yards or more and the league's sixth-worst defensive passer rating at 96.9.
While adding cornerbacks can't hurt, the problems in pass defense are a team-wide issue, including a lack of consistent pressure from the front seven and poor technique at safety.
Whether Talib will help in coverage or not, we won't find out for at least a couple of weeks—he still has one game left to serve on his suspension, so the soonest we'll see him line up in a Patriots uniform is in just over two weeks at home against the Indianapolis Colts.
This trade probably won't be a fix-all for the defense, but given the rate at which opponents are picking up big plays against NE through the air, adding a player with potential couldn't hurt. That is, as long as he isn't trying to hurt anyone.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.