Aqib Talib brings talent, and baggage, to Patriots

Grant Halverson

Aqib Talib is joining the New England Patriots, and the question is whether or not his off field baggage will outweigh what he can do on the football field.

Aqib Talib is a complicated individual. Within one body, Talib possesses a skill set that could greatly help the New England Patriots, the team he was traded to Thursday prior to the trade deadline, as well as a past and personality that could tear apart a team.

"The Patriots are getting a very talented but inconsistent cornerback who has had far too large a share of off-field troubles," said BucsNation general manager Sander Philipse.

Talib's case certainly is an interesting one. After becoming one of the most feared defensive backs in the nation during his senior season in 2007 at the University of Kansas and earning Orange Bowl MVP and unanimous All-American honors, he was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

His first two seasons in the NFL were decent, posting 14 tackles, nine passes defended and four interceptions in 15 games in his rookie campaign and a career-high 56 stops, 14 pass defends and five picks in 2009. Talib shined in 2010, when he picked off opposing quarterbacks six time while scoring a defensive touchdown, defending 11 passes and making 38 tackles, earning him NFL Alumni Defensive Back of the Year honors.

Of course, there are the negatives, too.

Talib was involved in a fistfight -- with his own teammate -- during the NFL rookie symposium in 2008. A year later, he allegedly "battered" a taxi driver and was arrested. In 2011, a felony warrant was issued for Talib for "aggravated assault with a deadly weapon" after he allegedly shot a gun at his sister's boyfriend, but those charges were dropped. Even this season, Talib was suspended four games for violation the league's performance enhancing drug policy and will be reinstated next week.

Alas, the question of the hour: do the negatives outweigh the positives?

"I don't think they do." Philipse said. "For all his off-field troubles, he has missed just five games due to suspension in his career, and four of those came for an Adderall suspension this season. Adderall use is not usually a recurring problem for NFL players, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. However, he has certainly proven to be an embarrassment for the Bucs on multiple occasions. Whether his talent outweighs his production depends mainly on your tolerance for embarrassment, then."

We know that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick doesn't have a lot of tolerance for embarrassment, but he has a history of bringing in players with questionable character. To his credit, some of them have worked out -- see Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. At the same time, some of them haven't -- see Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson.

How will Talib work out in New England? Only time will tell, but as Philipse notes, Talib's focus has been trending upward.

"Talib did appear to be more focused and seemed to have turned a corner the past year-and-a-half -- but then he got suspended for Adderall," said Philipse. "He did survive under Greg Schiano for half a season, which is more than a host of other troublemakers can say. I have no doubt that he'll be able to contribute on the field for the Patriots and survive in New England, but whether he can be set straight is a different question entirely."

Ah, and now we've reached the biggest (and most important) point of all.

Talib has talent in an area that New England desperately needs it. The Patriots' secondary has been a laughing stock, and Devin McCourty has continuously regressed since entering the league a couple of seasons ago. Talib's skill set was desperately needed by Belichick's squad, and the beauty of the NFL is that you can always cut a player loose at any point if they don't fit in well.

Hopefully he will, because the Patriots could really use a player like him.

"Talib is best as a press-man cornerback who can be singled up on a receiver with a great deal of success," noted Philipse. "He's an outstanding playmaker who can quickly break on the ball and has good ball skills. There will be a play or two in almost every game where he just gets beat, though, and he's not a great tackler."

There are some negatives to his game, sure, but that can be said for almost every player. Still, if he can stay focused, he can help New England fix its biggest concern and help them get back where they belong: the Super Bowl.

Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.

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