This coming offseason the New England Patriots will again start up negotiations with five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Wes Welker. While re-signing Welker will be one of the Patriots’ top priorities, more important will be re-signing cornerback Aqib Talib. The soon-to-be free agent Talib made a tremendous impact on the Patriots defense during his first few months with the Patriots and they need his return in order to continue progressing.
The Patriots acquired Talib on November 1st through a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 26-year old was in the midst of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy having one more game to serve upon arriving. But once Talib hit the field with his new team he made an immediate impact.
The Patriots have had problems with their defensive backfield over the past few years. While Devin McCourty was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 after his rookie season, Patrick Chung and Ras-I Dowling have had problems staying healthy. This has contributed to the Patriots having one of the worst secondaries in the league.
But following Talib’s arrival things started to change. McCourty was moved to safety where, alongside veteran Steve Gregory, he flourished. Talib was paired at cornerback with rookie Alfonzo Dennard and immediately the Patriots defense improved. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had been looking to draft a replacement for Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel since he left for Philadelphia following the 2007 season but, until the acquisition of Talib, was unsuccessful.
The Patriots saw what life would be like again without Talib when he injured his thigh in the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. His replacement, Kyle Arrington, was very underwhelming giving up a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Torrey Smith on just his first defensive series after replacing Talib.
Another player used to replace the star was Marquice Cole. Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin took advantage of Talib’s absence against Cole which included an 11-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter effectively sealing Baltimore’s trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
The Patriots took several strides late in the 2012 season which showed promise for 2013 that their offense wouldn’t have to score 40 points every game. Those strides happened following the acquisition of Talib. With their new star on defense, there is not a weakness on the Patriots team. But to complete a team that could win Super Bowl XLVIII, the Patriots must bring Aqib Talib back next season.