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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Revisiting the Aqib Talib trade

18

January

There are many reasons the Patriots are in the AFC Championship Game again.

You can start with the fact that they have one of the greatest coaches and quarterbacks in NFL history.

But neither Bill Belichick nor Tom Brady, despite their greatness, can play cornerback. And no one on the Patriots’ roster can do that as well as Aqib Talib.

Yeah, him. You probably thought you’d heard the last of Talib when he was traded earlier this season by the Bucs to New England. But his obvious impact on the Patriots secondary is worth revisiting with the team now one win from another Super Bowl appearance.

And it’s not too strong to say they might not be here if not for Talib’s contributions.

But here’s a question: Should his performance change the way we feel about the trade, one that netted the Bucs New England’s fourth-round pick this year?

Here’s what can’t be argued: Getting a fourth-round pick for a soon-to-be free agent who a team did not plan to re-sign is good value in and of itself. That’s something just about everyone can agree on.

But given the way the Bucs’ season started to crumble, in part, because of the play in their secondary, and considering the payoff for New England, maybe the Patriots didn’t get such a raw deal after all. The Patriots’ pass defense has been markedly better since acquiring Talib in November, while the Bucs proved incapable of effectively defending the pass week in and week out.

I’ve agreed all along the trade made good business sense and maybe even sent a message to teammates that troublemakers won’t have a place on Tampa Bay’s roster. Those things are important. But let’s be honest: It was a major sacrifice, and Talib’s play of late only reinforces how much the Bucs gave up in the deal. He’ll probably draw the assignment to cover Ravens speedster Torrey Smith on Sunday, one of the game’s most important matchups.

And here’s something we rarely consider in these conversations: The real value in this deal will be determined by what the Bucs get with that fourth-round pick they acquired. They might use it for ammunition in a key draft-night trade. Maybe they hang on to it and select a player who helps them win in 2013 and beyond. Or. . . they could botch the pick, too.

Time has a way of giving us greater perspective, and that’s certainly true here. The Bucs shouldn’t regret making the Talib trade. But the more time passes and the better Talib plays, the more reason we have to reassess the deal.

I mean, do the Patriots sound like they got fleeced?

“He is a special player. Ever since we got him, he has been making plays for us,” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork told the Boston Globe. “He made this defense better and we are happy to have him. Anytime you can basically say, ‘Hey, you got this guy and we’re going to cover everybody else,’ that’s a good sign.”

What do you think? Tell us.

[Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 11:24am]

    

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