Despite his character’s flawed past, Talib would surely be missed by Patriot Nation if he weren’t signed by the team prior to this upcoming season.
You didn’t have to be an avid fan of the 2012 New England Patriots to know that one of their central flaws was the play of their defensive secondary. And unfortunately for head coach Bill Belichick, who prides himself on the play of his defense, theses issues plagued each individual position, from linebacker to safety (despite the presences of Jerod Mayo and the “always reliable,” but soon to depart, Patrick Chung). But thanks to a late-season trade for the risqué Aqib Talib, the Pats instantly got an upgrade at a position that was previously led by the Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington in the first half of the season. The cornerback had an immediate impact on the field and on the defense as a whole, affecting the way they played as a unit in both confidence and scheme. He singlehandedly turned what was the worst deep pass defense in the league into a middle-of-the-field group. Despite the obvious improvement that resulted from his addition to the team, according to Comcast SportsNet New England (CSNNE) reporter Mike Giardi it’s not as much of a shoe-in as fans might think that Talib will return.
Poor work ethic is the top reason that sits on the Pats list of things that would keep them from signing the unrestricted free agent to a long-term deal. They simply don’t trust that the troubled corner will put in the extra work necessary to maintain a starting job on one of the NFL’s most elite squads (mainly because he didn’t this past season). And why should they? He doesn’t have a good track record, and if he didn’t put in the work last year then why bother signing him to a multi-year contract? A one-year deal is a much safer option, but considering the slim pickings at CB in the upcoming free agent pool, Talib is likely to receive quite the payday. And since the Patriots aren’t known to give those out regularly (with Logan Mankins being the recent exception), it’s seeming more and more likely that the shutdown corner will not be donning the red, white, and blue next season.
If that’s the case, and the Patriots do decide to let Talib walk, the team will have to make a decision: to add secondary help through the draft or through free agency? Unfortunately for New England, neither avenue has proven a successful one, especially the draft. It has been past draft picks that have truly doomed the Pats backfield, with misfires such as Brandon Meriweather (1st round, 24th overall, ‘07), Terrence Wheatley (2nd round, ‘08), and Darius Butler (2nd round, ‘09) never seeming to truly find their niche with the team: it was a poor work ethic with one, bad technique with another, and yet another that had a simple lack of understanding of the team’s system. However, with 1st round draft pick Devin McCourty having made the successful switch from corner to free safety, and the undrafted Alfonzo Dennard having shown the ability as a rookie to both learn and develop, it would seem that the Hoodie is starting to put some of the pieces of his envisioned defense together. And with some secondary picks in at least two of the first three rounds (along with some additional help either in FA and a hopefully upgraded pass rush), they could be in decent shape headed into the 2013 campaign. Put it this way: they can’t be any worse…right?
- Ryan Hartley