FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots made a bold move to shore up their leaky secondary Thursday, trading for Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib, a player widely regarded as talented but who also has a history of volatility.
The Buccaneers announced that they sent Talib and a 2013 seventh-round pick to New England in exchange for a 2013 fourth-round pick.
Talib is currently serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. In a statement after his suspension was announced last month, Talib said he took an Adderall pill without a prescription “around the beginning of training camp.”
Adderall, a stimulant, contains amphetamines that are included in the league’s list of performance-enhancers. Adderall is a drug commonly prescribed for attention-deficit disorder.
A player with a proper prescription and a medical need for the drug is allowed to take it; in the past several months, Talib and at least four other players have blamed Adderall for a failed drug test. None were on record with the NFL as having a medical need for it.
Although this Sunday marks the fourth week of Talib’s suspension, he must sit out four games. With New England on its bye this weekend, he must miss the Nov. 11 game against Buffalo before being reinstated Nov. 12.
The Patriots cannot have any contact with him, and he can’t report to the team facility, until his suspension ends.
Talib is in the final year of his rookie contract, and New England will pay him a pro-rated $762,794 for the final seven weeks of the regular season.
But after giving up a fourth-round pick to get him, the Patriots could have designs on signing Talib to a longer-term deal.
First-year Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano, a friend of Bill Belichick’s, said at the time of Talib’s suspension that the team would not release him once he was reinstated, but there was little chance he was going to remain with the Buccaneers past this season.
Given Talib’s history, Belichick will very likely make it crystal clear to him that he has very little room for error.
The 20th overall pick in 2008 after a standout career at Kansas, Talib is listed at 6 feet 1 inch, 205 pounds. He is a cover corner, which the Patriots lack, with good size though not blazing speed.
In 58 games with Tampa Bay, Talib recorded 53 pass breakups and 18 interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns. He is considered a big-time competitor who plays hard.
Talib could be the top cornerback the Patriots have lacked in recent years, and getting him is certainly a better option — based on his NFL results — than searching for street free agents to possibly make an impact.
The move could also mean Devin McCourty will stay at safety, at least for the rest of this season. McCourty began playing at safety late last season, and the Patriots wanted to keep him there before worries about the depth and talent at cornerback sent him back to that position.
But with injuries to safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, McCourty was moved back to safety and has played well there.
Based on talent, the Patriots had Talib rated as their top defensive back in the 2008 draft, but character concerns — which didn’t take long to show once he was drafted by the Buccaneers — hurt his stock with New England.
At his rookie symposium, Talib came to blows with another Bucs draft pick, Cory Boyd. During offseason workouts in May 2009, he got into a fight at practice with offensive tackle Donald Penn. Talib swung his helmet at Penn, but fellow corner Torrie Cox ended up getting hit in the face and needed medical attention for cuts to his nose and eye.
A few months later, Talib was briefly jailed after an incident in which he allegedly struck a taxi driver and was charged with simple battery and resisting arrest without violence, both misdemeanors.
That event led to his first suspension; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Talib for the 2010 season opener without pay and also docked him a second paycheck.
In March 2011, during the NFL lockout, Talib and his mother were accused of shooting at Shannon Billings, who was the boyfriend of Talib’s sister, in Garland, Texas, near where Talib went to high school; Talib also allegedly pistol-whipped the man. Both Aqib and Okolo Talib were indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony.
Aqib was scheduled to stand trial in June this year, but the charges were dropped. Prosecutors believed that the chief witness, Billings, would not be deemed credible because at the time he was in jail as a repeat sex offender.
The deal between New England and Tampa Bay was the only major trade made before the new NFL deadline; earlier this year, owners voted to push the date back from the Tuesday after Week 6 to the Tuesday after Week 8. Because of Hurricane Sandy, the decision was made to push the deadline date back to Thursday afternoon.
Because of last year’s trades with Washington and Cincinnati to acquire Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, respectively, the Patriots did not have a fifth- or sixth-round pick to offer Tampa Bay for Talib.
The team now has five picks for 2013: a first, a second, a third, and two sevenths.