The tricky part was not getting rid of Aqib Talib. Heck, a lot of us were prepared to do that some time ago.
For the Bucs, the tricky part was how smart they looked doing it.
Bravo for the Bucs. They finally turned Talib into someone else's problem Thursday afternoon. Finally they rid themselves of the headlines and the headaches and the hammerhead decisions that have defined Talib's career. The next time Talib gets into a fight, or a cab, or a medicine cabinet, it will be some other team that gets burned.
And here's the best part:
The Bucs not only rid themselves of Talib, they received a fourth-round draft pick in return for their trouble.
For the Bucs, and for the rest of us, this was a hard-to-believe ending to a hard-to-tolerate story. A great many of us were pleading with the Bucs to throw Talib away, and instead, they get something in return. Let's face it: No matter how big the disappointment is, the pawn shop is always a better deal than the garbage can. This way, at least the Bucs got some return.
The complete trade is this: The Patriots get Talib and a seventh-round pick, which is expected to be a bail bondsman. The Bucs get a fourth-round pick and a large slice of credibility back. All in all, it's a pretty good deal.
And now we know what Greg Schiano meant a few weeks ago when he said "Trust us.''
As it turns out, the Bucs coach simply wasn't finishing his thought. What he probably meant was something like this:
"Trust us … we know this guy isn't worth the headaches, and we'll take care of it.''
Or "Trust us … we would love to release him today, but we think we can get something in return.''
Or "Trust us … Talib will never play here again, but we have a plan you're going to like better than a quick dismissal.''
Granted, part of that plan meant the Bucs had to suffer some criticism until Thursday's NFL trade deadline arrived. When the front office chose not to release Talib immediately after announcing last month that he had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs (he said he took Adderall), there was a great deal of grumbling, and yes, much of it was in this column.
To a lot of people, it appeared the Bucs were once again paying too much attention to Talib's talent and not enough to his troubles. They seemed soft. They seemed insincere.
Now? Now they look like a team that did the right thing at the right time and in the right way. How do you like them now?
Oh, there will be those who regret the loss of Talib's skills over the last half of this season. Considering the Bucs still play quarterbacks Matt Ryan (twice) and Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the team can use all the cornerbacks it can get if it plans to get into a playoff run.
Still, this trade tells you the Bucs had no intention of bringing back Talib next year. And if that's true, Thursday was their last chance to get something for him.
Who gives a fourth-round draft pick for a player with a history of bad decisions? Frankly, New England is one of the few teams that can afford this kind of risk. Even now, it doesn't have a lot invested in Talib. If he fails, the Patriots can simply let him go. If he succeeds, they will have bolstered their secondary before the playoffs.
Here? It was past time for the 26-year-old to go. Every year there was another problem, and another punishment, and another outcry from a public that likes it when its players represent more than football. Tampa Bay has seen too many community good guys — Lee Roy Selmon, Warrick Dunn, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Mike Alstott — to endure the athletes who can't get out of the way of their own image.
In other words, the only time the Bucs will ever miss Talib is game day. And frankly, they may not miss him as much as you would think. This year the Bucs are 1-3 with Talib and 2-1 without him. In 2010 they were 4-1 without him.
Is a fourth-round draft pick enough of a return? Maybe. This year the Bucs used fourth-round picks to trade up for both Lavonte David and Doug Martin. A few years ago, they picked receiver Mike Williams in the fourth round.
In other words, the Bucs are better off without Talib. In the clubhouse. In the community. In next year's draft.
Even better than that? They look smart. They look decisive. They look intolerant without looking impatient.
Frankly, they look trustworthy.
That's something worth trading for, too.
Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.