The New England Patriots believe they have a shot to return to the Super Bowl this season. And so, they did not want to let an opportunity to improve in a big way slip past them.
Just prior to Thursday's revised trade deadline (the original one, set for Tuesday, was pushed back because of Hurricane Sandy), the Patriots acquired cornerback Aqib Talib and a 2013 seventh-round pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2013 fourth-rounder.
Talib, 26, is in the last year of his contract and is serving the final week of a four-game suspension for the use of Adderall. But once he's eligible to get back on the field, for New England's Week 11 game against the Colts, he should offer significant help for a Patriots' pass defense that currently ranks 28th in the league.
Talib should step right in and become the Patriots' No. 1 corner, especially since Bill Belichick shifted Devin McCourty to safety in an effort to shore up his team's weakest unit.
The suspension was the second of Talib's career -- he served a one-game suspension in 2010 for an off-field altercation -- but first-year Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano expressed disappointment when it was revealed. That was enough to spark speculation that the Buccaneers would cut Talib, given Schiano's hardline stance on team discipline (see: Kellen Winslow Jr.).
The move, no doubt sparked by Talib's imminent departure as a free agent after this season, comes at an interesting time for the team.
The Buccaneers posted a 2-1 record during the first three games of Talib's suspension to get to 3-4 on the year, and their upcoming schedule (at Oakland, San Diego, at Carolina) offers a real opportunity to rejoin the playoff race in full. Talib's departure, though, coupled with a possible looming suspension for Eric Wright (use of a performance-enhancing drug) could leave Tampa Bay shorthanded in the secondary.
The Patriots should have no such problem, even if McCourty sticks at safety -- he's played well there, and this move certainly provides Belichick more flexibility. Belichick now has the option, once Talib is off suspension, of either Tavon Wilson or Alfonzo Dennard as his nickel back, with the other providing solid depth.
It's a move that only solidifies the Patriots' standing as a contender again this season.
The secondary stood as New England's obvious Achilles' heel -- especially with the Patriots' run game growing more formidable by the week. Three teams already have topped 300 yards passing against Belichick's bunch, with rookie Russell Wilson leading a Week 6 comeback win and even Mark Sanchez making things happen through the air in New England. Red flags and all, Talib could be just what the Patriots were missing.