A source with knowledge of the situation told Comcast SportsNet's Mike Giardi that the New England Patriots have some serious concerns about cornerback Aqib Talib's work ethic as he heads into free agency.
According to the source, Talib passed on the chance to do extra work at times this year and there are questions as to how he'd handle a long-term deal. The Pats, said the source, would prefer to sign Talib to a one-year, make-good contract.
After numerous instances involving legal battles and in-house fighting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded the former first-round selection to the New England Patriots for a 2013 fourth-round pick just before the trading deadline this past season. While incredibly talented, the Buccaneers seemed reluctant to ink Talib to a multiyear contract extension after adopting new philosophies courtesy of new head coach Greg Schiano. While Talib was expected to surely bolster the Patriots' ailing secondary, the character issues were a concern from the get-go--even if it only meant acquiring his services for a short period of time.
While no known behavioral problems seemed to surface this season, reports of the Patriots' reluctancy to retain Talib are troubling. While number-crunchers like Pro Football Focus questioned Talib's overall effectiveness in coverage, eyeballing a Patriot defense with Talib was drastically and markedly improved over the one we saw earlier in the season. Look no further than the AFC Championship game; the Patriots' D seemed to be flummoxing quarterback Joe Flacco and his receivers early on. After Talib went to the locker room with a hamstring injury, the Ravens' offense exploded in the second-half to the tune of 21 unanswered points.
If the reports are correct and the Patriots manage to bring back Talib on a one-year deal, the risk would be low. In case the old Talib rears his law-breaking head down the road, the Patriots could eat the prorated contract if they cut him and be effectively done. A one-year deal also keeps Talib hungry; at 26 he's still young with plenty to prove, and if November-and-on with the Patriots didn't bring the kind of offers Talib was hoping for, a one-year 'make good' deal would.
On the other hand, the news is extremely discouraging from a fan's perspective. Inserting Talib in the lineup worked wonders in a Patriot secondary that has struggled to find consistency for years, and a multiyear deal could finally bring stability to the backend while the coaching staff could attend to other pressing needs. A one-year deal wouldn't spell disaster as they would be afforded time to pick through more defensive backs via the draft, but the red flags that we thought we steered clear of are larger and more dire than the ones hoisted on the pirate ship at Raymond James.