GLENDALE AZ - OCTOBER 31: Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts to his interception against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 31 2010 in Glendale Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
I talked about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' culture change a little earlier today, and one player could ultimately fall victim to that culture change: Aqib Talib. To be fair, it appears that Talib has done everything Schiano has asked him to do this offseason. He's had no new off-field problems arise, he has been in attendance for every bit of the OTAs and when Schiano has talked about him he has only been complementary of the defensive back.
But here's the thing: Aqib Talib's contract runs out after the 2012 season, and it's not clear whether the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are willing to keep him. Will they hand out a long-term contract extension to an extremely talented cornerback with some inconsistency issues and, more importantly, a history of off-field problems? That assumes Talib isn't convicted later this month on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
When Greg Schiano was asked what defines a "Buccaneer man" by Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, his response was: "Guys you can trust. Guys who believe in what we're doing. Guys who are accountable to each other--things that are becoming more rare every day in our world."
Is Aqib Talib someone you can trust, who is accountable to his teammates? I can't talk about his on-field play and behavior in training camp, but his off-field trouble suggests trusting him may be tough. Can you see this regime handing him a new contract after this season? I can't, andI think signing Eric Wright was, in part, a response to a possible future without Aqib Talib.
There are other reasons to think Talib won't be with the team for the long term, though. Earlier this offseason, there were rumblings that the Bucs wanted to trade the veteran cornerback, although Greg Schiano didn't take long to deny that. And then there's another report from Wolf Heard of Buccaneers101 and formerly of Pewter Report that the Redskins are very interested in Aqib Talib, which makes sense with Raheem Morris being their defensive backs coach. Of course, that report may be of a little more dubious value.
Regardless of the truth of those reports, though, the Bucs can't really afford to let Aqib Talib walk. The team isn't going through a rebuilding year: they want to win this season. To do so, they can't rely on Eric Wright as their #1 cornerback, with E.J. Biggers as the second starter and Anthony Gaitor in the slot. That's what would happen if the Bucs were to let go of Talib, and that combination of cornerbacks sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Especially so if the Bucs' talented pass rushers don't quite develop the way they should this season, which is entirely realistic.