TAMPA — For 4½ seasons, the Bucs endured lost tempers, suspensions and the constant fear of what might come next from cornerback Aqib Talib.
But on Thursday, with Talib halfway through the final season of his contract, the Bucs cut the cord.
The team traded him to the Patriots for a 2013 fourth-round pick, barely beating the NFL's 4 p.m. trade deadline. The Bucs also sent a seventh-round pick to New England. None of the picks have conditions attached, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said.
Talib was not available for comment, in part, because he is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy. Talib said he took an unprescribed Adderall pill.
Talib was to be reinstated on Monday. But because the Patriots have a bye this week, his fourth missed game now comes Nov. 11.
Dominik didn't cite Talib's past as the driving force behind dealing him.
That past, since the Bucs drafted him 20th overall out of Kansas in 2008, includes a battery arrest in 2009, multiple fights with teammates and a shooting incident last year for which charges were dismissed.
Coach Greg Schiano gave Talib a clean slate upon his hiring in January. And last month, Schiano said Talib would be welcomed back after the suspension.
"The thing that you have to keep in mind as an organization is your body of work is what it is," Dominik said. "(Talib) played well here. But at the same point he's got eight games left on his contract. We have to look at everything when we make these decisions."
Dominik, wearing a little more than a 5 o'clock shadow, said he spent much of the previous three days calling teams and fielding calls as the deadline approached.
"There's been long days of calling every team … to ask what's the opportunity, what might make sense for our football team," he said. "That's what got us to (Thursday).
"The good thing about this trade is it provides us another fourth-round pick. The fourth round has been good to us. That's where we got (receiver) Mike Williams. That's where (in April), we used that pick to (trade) up and get not only (running back) Doug Martin but (linebacker) Lavonte David.
Talib, 26, intercepted 18 passes, returning three for scores, in 58 games over four-plus seasons. His interception total is the most of any player in the 2008 draft class, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Eagles is second with 16.
Talib has been the Bucs' top corner throughout his career, routinely shadowing opponents' top receivers with mixed results. Because he tended to gamble, Talib gave up many big plays, offsetting the positive ones he made.
Still, the Bucs stuck with him because of his talent. The Patriots, coveted that talent because their defense ranks 23rd overall and 28th against the pass.
Meanwhile, the Bucs will have to account for the loss. The secondary, at times, has played well in Talib's absence. Last week at Minnesota, rookie Leonard Johnson, a Largo High graduate, saw significant time.
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But the Bucs face another issue. Starting right cornerback Eric Wright reportedly is facing a suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug. He remains eligible to play Sunday at Oakland, but Dominik wouldn't comment on the situation.
Despite that, Talib is gone.
"We felt after sitting down with (Schiano), going through the whole process," Dominik said, "we felt this was the right move for our football team."
What now for the Bucs secondary?
Left cornerback: E.J. Biggers, who has started during Aqib Talib's suspension, will continue to do so.
Depth: If starter Eric Wright is suspended for using a performance-enhancing substance, the emergence of undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson will help. He was the third cornerback last week and earned praise from the staff for his play. The Bucs also have veterans Danny Gorrer, Myron Lewis and Brandon McDonald.
Barber? Ronde Barber likely remains at free safety despite 15 seasons of experience at cornerback. But he's an option to play in the slot.
Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer