Huddle Up: Aqib Talib, Buccaneers catch a break
Throughout the NFL’s lengthy offseason, “Huddle Up” will provide you with a quick take on an important story or development from around the league …
For Aqib Talib’s future, both with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and as an NFL player in general, Monday was a very important day. It may wind up being a pretty key moment for the Buccaneers, too.
Prosecutors in Texas dismissed the charges against Talib for assault with a deadly weapon Monday, a week before Talib was scheduled to stand trial. New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said last week, “Any time you have a guy where there’s an off-the-field situation that could affect his on-the-field situation, you’re concerned,” but he and the organization can rest easy now, though Roger Goodell could still step in and deliver a suspension to Talib.
There was a lot of buzz throughout last season and into the 2012 draft that the Bucs wanted to rid themselves of Talib, who is entering the last year of a five-year deal. All their actions since then, though, indicate otherwise.
Schiano and his staff have moved forward with the plan to shift longtime cornerback Ronde Barber to free safety. Then, rather than take a cornerback in the draft, the Buccaneers nabbed safety Mark Barron at No. 7 overall.
Had Talib ended up facing a lengthy trial or, worse yet, been sentenced to prison time, Schiano would have been forced to reorganize. The obvious option would have been to slide Barber back to cornerback, but Tampa Bay doesn’t really have a ready replacement at safety — last year’s starters there were Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson, with the latter being cut due to a failed physical.
E.J. Biggers would likely be first up at cornerback in Talib’s absence, after starting six games last season. The other choices for Schiano there are Myron Lewis and 2012 sixth-round pick Keith Tandy.
None of those players brings as much to the table as Talib. The fifth-year corner out of Kansas has 17 career interceptions and allowed just 28 receptions in his coverage zones last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
The ideal four-man secondary for Tampa Bay right now, without question, features Talib and free-agent signing Eric Wright at corner with Barber and Barron at the safety spots. The loss of any one of that quartet would force the Buccaneers to do some reshuffling.
In addition to expressing his concern about Talib’s legal situation last week, Schiano also praised Talib’s effort this offseason:
“The thing that I can tell you is since I arrived here January 26, he’s been awesome. The way he’s worked, he’s been here every day. I hope that it’s left behind him and there isn’t anything and that we can move forward because, again, I can only judge people since I’ve been involved.”
Those are important words coming from the Buccaneers’ head coach, considering he has gone out of his way to impart a disciplined culture since taking over. Schiano’s tough-line approach no doubt drove the decision to send Kellen Winslow Jr. packing in May.
This was not Talib’s first run-in with the law, either. He was suspended one game back in 2010 for punching a cab driver the year prior. It’s that history, maybe more than anything else, that opens the door for Goodell to step in again here.
But the fact that Talib has done everything asked of him by Schiano thus far is another reason that it’s hard to see Tampa Bay dumping him off for a draft pick.
That scenario looked probable late in the 2011 season, but Talib appears to be too important to the Buccaneers’ 2012 hopes for a move to be made now.