NFL fans and observers expecting an anti-climactic trade deadline received a surprising jolt when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they had traded cornerback Aqib Talib and a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, which they had acquired from the Chicago Bears, to the New England Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2013.
A 2008 first-round pick out of Kansas, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Talib had 182 tackles and 18 interceptions in 45 career games with the Buccaneers. In four games this season, Talib had 21 tackles and an interception while playing in 270 of the team's 272 defensive snaps before he was suspended for four games for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs. Specifically, Talib tested positive for Adderall.
Talib's suspension was slated to end on Nov. 5, but may extend for another week as the Patriots are on their bye this week. Talib is earning $1,852,500, which means the Patriots will be on the hook for the prorated portion ($871,765, 8/17ths of his salary) for the remainder of the season.
New England's secondary has been a source of frustration this season, with the Patriots allowing 281.1 yards per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. The Patriots lost 2011 second-round pick Ras-I Dowling to a thigh injury and safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory have both missed time recently with injuries. Even when healthy, Chung has struggled with consistency. The move to acquire Talib could mean a permanent move to safety for 2010 first-round pick Devin McCourty, who had seven interceptions and went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie cornerback, but has rarely flashed that same play-making ability in the two seasons since. McCourty has played more safety with the injuries to Chung and Gregory.
For the Buccaneers, they've severed ties with a player who had become a source of off-field frustration over the last few seasons. The 26-year-old was involved in a fistfight with a teammate at the 2008 Rookie Symposium and was arrested for assaulting a cab driver in 2009. In March of 2011, Talib was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly pistol-whipping and firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend. Talib was facing 20 years in prison, but the charges were dropped in June of 2012. Given his off-field exploits, it was unlikely that the Buccaneers were going to re-sign Talib in 2013.
The Talib trade was the lone trade at the deadline, which had been pushed back from 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to 4 p.m. ET on Thursday due to Hurricane Sandy. On Tuesday, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded wide receiver Mike Thomas to the Detroit Lions, which became official when Thomas passed his physical on Thursday. Besides that, this year's deadline was filled with nothing but unsubstantiated rumors.
Diverse schemes and the limited time to learn and adjust to a new system is one of the biggest impediments to a trade, but financial reasons may explain the lack of deals at this year's deadline.
The most talked about player at the deadline was St. Louis Rams running back Steve Jackson, who is due $3.7 million over the next nine weeks. That's a lot of money for a 29-year-old running back who has the option to void his contract and become an unrestricted free agent after Super Bowl XLVII. Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams would have cost a new team $2.779 million for the last half of the season and saddled the next Panthers general manager with $9.6 million in "dead" money on their 2013 cap. Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is playing on a franchise tag this season and is due $5.03 million over the next nine weeks. That money immediately counts against the salary cap, which eliminates nearly half the league from even being able to trade for Bowe as they have less than $5 million in cap space available. Another factor in the lack of a Bowe trade is that he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season unless the Chiefs, or an acquiring team, is willing to commit $11.418 million to use the franchise tag on him for a second time.