Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/1/12
The Patriots secondary has clearly been their Achilles heel this season. But Bill Belichick took action to try and correct that issue at the trade deadline. Aqib Talib, a supremely talented and superbly careless cornerback, was traded from the Tampa Buccaneers at the deadline in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round pick on Thursday. The Patriots also received a seventh-round pick in the deal. A former first-round draft pick -- 20th overall in 2008 -- Talib possess the skills and speed necessary to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. But his off-the-field issues continue to derail what should be a perennial Pro-Bowl type talent. Talib, 26, was an elite talent coming out of Kansas in 2008 with projections as a legitimate cover corner. But even then, behavioral problems and character questions watched him dip beyond his talent grade in the draft. The big issue remains that those problems have spilled into his professional career. During his four-plus seasons in the NFL, Talib has been arrested once and suspended twice. Talib was suspended for the season-opener in 2010 stemming from an altercation with a taxi driver in August 2009. He was then arrested in 2011 for allegedly firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend. Those charges were eventually dropped and Talib wasn't suspended. He's currently serving a four-game suspension after violating the league's substance-abuse policy by testing positive for adderall. Not a great track record for someone being relied on to improve an already revolving door in the secondary. Having served only three of the four games on his suspension, and thanks to the Patriots bye this weekend, Talib probably won't suit up for the Patriots until Week 11 against the Colts. But the Patriots have already spent eight games struggling with a mediocre secondary, so his absence won't be a departure from the norm. Off the field stuff aside, Talib remains one of the better defensive playmakers in the NFL. At 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, he's a big, physical corner. He has great speed, especially considering his size, and he possesses elite ball skills comparable with some of the best in the league. Through 58 games in the NFL, not even four full seasons, Talib has 18 interceptions and has returned three of them for touchdowns -- impressive considering the small time span. That playmaking mentality brings back memories of old friend Asante Samuel, who's a true opportunist in every sense of the word. While a great compliment, Talib sometimes also suffers from the same route-jumping tendency that made Samuel such a liability. Which is still only a minor flaw. With Talib on board, even if only on an eight-week rental given his expiring contract, the Patriots will also have some flexibility to try and properly sort out their secondary. Patrick Chung and Steven Gregory are both on the mend and expected to return within the next few weeks, which should provide some more depth. With them back in the fold, Devin McCourty could return to his more natural cornerback position. Although, with Talib on board, McCourty, who has performed more than admirably at safety, could be afforded the opportunity to stay there long-term. Whatever McCourty's future may hold, Talib's presence should add some much-needed depth and ability to a desperately deprived secondary. The experience of Kyle Arrington along with McCourty and Chung as well as the improvements of guys like rookie Alfonzo Dennard and Marquice Cole are important to the development of the Patriots secondary. And if able to provide some stability, Talib will immediately alleviate pressure off those players.  Talib's off-field issues should certainly be of concern for Belichick and the coaching staff. But for the failed ventures such as Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson, the Patriots have also found success in the likes of Randy Moss and Corey Dillon. Not to unfairly compare Talib to either player, but there is proof that such risks have worked in the past. The assessed risk also has to be tempered as there's no chance this deal ever goes through without Buccaneers head coach and Belichick confidante Greg Schiano signing off on Talib. So, there's at least some relief in taking on such an unpredictable character. Normally an underwhelming and for all purposes meaningless event, the NFL trade deadline actually showed some spice this year.  And Talib stole the show. But if Talib pans out in New England, the Patriots will be the true thieves on this day. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter @LukeFHughes or send it here.
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