On Thursday, the New England Patriots acquired cornerback Aqib Talib in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In another transaction, the team waived cornerback Sterling Moore. The Patriots currently have the fifth worst passing defense in the league, but have made an improvement with these two moves.
Moore was an undrafted free agent out of SMU who was picked up by the Oakland Raiders in 2011. After being released twice by the Raiders and twice by the Patriots, the cornerback finally made a name for himself when he sealed the Patriots trip to Super Bowl XLVI after knocking the ball out of Lee Evans’ hands in the AFC championship game.
This season, Moore has primarily played nickel defensive back for the Patriots and has seen significant playing time due to several injuries in the defensive backfield. While Moore has been pretty solid at the position this season, head coach Bill Belichick is clearly looking for an upgrade.
That upgrade will come in the form of Talib. A first-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2008, Talib has shown the ability to be a shutdown defensive back. His best season was in 2010 when he tallied six interceptions and returned one of those for a touchdown. Unfortunately an injury ended his season prematurely but at the time he was tied for second in the league in interceptions.
There is also a risk with the acquisition. In 2008, Talib got into a fight with teammate Cory Boyd at the NFL rookie symposium. The next year he was arrested for an altercation with a taxi driver which resulted in him being charged with resisting arrest. Last March, he was arrested again for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as police accused him of attempting to shoot his sister’s boyfriend. Those charges were dropped in June.
From a character aspect Talib is much more of a risk for the Patriots. But from a playing aspect, Talib is definitely an upgrade. While Moore had the ability to hold his own in the NFL, Talib has the ability to be a star in the league. If he’s able to keep out of trouble, it could be a very wise decision by the Patriots and could be a significant improvement to their passing defense.
Both the acquisition of Talib and the release of Moore are surprising. Injuries have plagued the team this season and there no reason to believe that they will lessen as the season continues. Moore’s release weakens the team’s depth if injuries occur. Talib’s acquisition is a surprise because while he has great potential, the Patriots are known for being strict on player behavior and they already took one character risk when they drafted Alfonzo Dennard. It remains to be seen if Talib can stay out of trouble but with this move, the Patriots have traded up in a much needed position.