Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Role: Talib was the team's No. 1 cornerback, often drawing the assignment of covering an opponent's biggest threat in the passing game. He played 856 snaps, the fourth-most for any defensive player, despite missing three games due to injury.
Production: On 75 total passes thrown his direction, Talib allowed 41 receptions (54.7 percent) and three touchdowns while intercepting four passes and breaking up seven, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He was playing at a shutdown level before injuring his hip in Week 6 against the New Orleans Saints.
Need: If it wasn't clear how badly the Patriots need Talib before, the AFC Championship Game opened a lot of eyes. He had largely taken Demaryius Thomas out of the game, allowing just one catch in more than a quarter's worth of action. After he went down, the Patriots lacked a physical cornerback to match up with any of Denver's receivers. Alfonzo Dennard is a solid cornerback, but he's best in a No. 2 role. Rookie Logan Ryan made some strides, but he is still better served in a rotational role.
Injuries: The Patriots re-signed Talib for a one-year deal last year, partly due to concerns over his durability. He has missed time in each of his six seasons, mostly due to injury. As mentioned earlier, he missed three games to a hip injury this year and missed most of the AFC Championship Game due to a knee injury.
Value grade: A-
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.