Last season, the Patriots’ secondary was in distress for the second year in a row. They had allowed over 250 yards in six of their first eight games and were sitting with an unexpected 5-3 record. Then they acquired their knight in shining armor from Tampa Bay — Aqib Talib. And he came with an off-kilter hat and one more game left on a four-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall.
In that game that passed while Talib was still on suspension, the Patriots allowed 319 yards to the lowly Bills. When Talib came in, you noticed an immediate change. He didn’t play at an elite level, but he allowed the Patriots to switch to more man coverage looks. He also forced Kyle Arrington into the slot permanently and he allowed Devin McCourty to stay at free safety. The secondary came together.
The problem with acquiring Talib for a fourth-round pick was that his contract was up after the season. To get full value out of the trade, the Patriots would need to lock Talib up. There was speculation that New England would slap the franchise or transition tag on Talib, and it’s looking smart that they didn’t. They got Talib for half as much on the one-year, $5 million contract he agreed to on Saturday.
The key to re-signing Talib was to get some sort of out if he decided to act up again. On top of the suspension Talib faced in 2012, he’s also had legal problems throughout his career. Playing on a one-year deal will force the Kansas product to keep on the straight and narrow to earn even more money when his deal is up again next season.
Talib rejoins an already improved secondary. They signed veteran Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson to take over for Patrick Chung, and Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard will be another year older, better and wiser going into 2013. Expect the team to acquire even more talent in their secondary, especially at cornerback where they need a solid backup for Talib and Dennard.
For Talib, the one-year deal allows him to gain some respect and trust before going out to the open market again. Albert Breer of NFL.com reported the Patriots offered him a five-year deal, but he preferred the shorter contract. The longer deal likely included less money and outs depending on behavior. He’ll also likely be able to make more money when the market for cornerbacks is less flooded going into 2014.
With another year in the Patriots’ system under his belt, Talib should be even better in 2013. In 2012 he allowed 52 receptions on 80 targets for 775 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 98.7 quarterback rating, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s fine, but not great. But Bill Belichick has trusted him in the past to shadow the opposing team’s best receiver, and that frees up safety help for Dennard on the other side of the defense.
Surely Talib would have liked more money and a longer deal, and the Patriots likely would have wanted to keep Talib cheap for longer, but for one year, this is the best deal either party could hope for.
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