In 2008, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted to find a cornerback of the future. At the 20th overall pick, they had the choice between Aqib Talib out of Kansas, who grew up near Dallas, or the local Mike Jenkins from USF. The Dallas Cowboys were also looking for a cornerback and picked 5 spots later. The Bucs could pick a local hero in Mike Jenkins, someone who had had a very good career at USF and grew up in Bradenton. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys could end up with troubled but talented cornerback Aqib Talib, someone who grew up near Dallas. Local heroes for both franchises.
Instead, the Bucs decided to pick up Aqib Talib. In terms of talent, this was certainly the better decision: Aqib Talib has shown the ability to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. But in the long run, this seems to have turned into a very bad draft pick. Talib has consistently gotten into trouble: he got into a fight at the rookie symposium, he was charged with simple battery after allegedly assaulting a taxi driver - and he missed one game with a suspension because of that. Finally, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon this past offseason, and he'll be tried for that offense in March.
But despite that, the Bucs have consistently stuck with him. They've issued no public punishment, and they've protected him when he managed to almost single-handedly lose the game in London. But hey, he's talented, right? And the Bucs certainly have a much worse pass defense without Talib.
At some point his talent stops weighing up to his issues - both on the field and off the field. And I think the Bucs have finally reached this point. Hit the jump to see why.
1. Raheem Morris will most likely be fired
When the Bucs selected Aqib Talib in the 2008 draft, Raheem Morris was supposedly a big reason why. Morris had coached against Talib in 2006 when he was defensive coordinator at Kansas State, and he loved the talent of the young cornerback. At least, that's what Charlie Campbell of Walter Football (and formerly of Pewter Report) tells us. More than that, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports Raheem Morris managed to convince the Bucs to keep Aqib Talib this offseason.
So, Raheem Morris has been key in keeping Aqib Talib in the organization these past years. But if Raheem Morris leaves, Talib's strongest supporters leaves. And a new coach is much less likely to protect the talented cornerback. In fact, a new coach may want to set the tone and show that behavior like Talib's won't be tolerated - cutting him immediately.
2. Aqib Talib is likely to be suspended or in jail
Aqib Talib was not suspended this offseason for his offseason charges. Supposedly, this had something to do with negotiations between the NFLPA and NFL. But Aqib Talib goes on trial this March, and that trial could certainly determine his future. If he's convicted of a felony, he will go to jail. And if he goes to jail, the Bucs can't possibly keep him around.
Even if he doesn't go to jail or pleads guilty to a lesser charge, the NFL could still suspend him. Roger Goodell has suspended several players for their conduct, even if those players were never convicted. And if Goodell does suspend, the Bucs are likely to miss the cornerback for a couple of games in 2012. With that being the final year of his contract, the Bucs could simply cut him during the offseason instead of having to deal with his issues while he misses even more games.
3. Aqib Talib still has "anger management issues" and is the "only bad guy in the locker room"
Yes, those are two quotes. The first quote comes from Ira Kaufman, who appeared on Primetime on ESPN Florida yesterday. According to Kaufman, "people still walk around him very tenderly" and "he still has anger management issues." As Kaufman puts it, "You've gotta proceed with him with caution, you've gotta be careful what you say to him, how do you say it, when do you say it." And all that isn't based on the offseason incident, but on what Kaufman sees in the locker room on a daily basis.
The second quote comes from Charlie Campbell, again. Let me quote him in full:
Morris has never adequately disciplined Talib. Team staff have told me that Talib is the only bad guy in their locker room, that was said before Haynesworth was claimed. Other staff also said they don't know how Morris works with Talib.
There is a strong sentiment that if/when Morris goes the Bucs will cut Talib. But general manager Mark Dominik was on board with keeping Talib after the latest arrest.
I don't think that needs any explantion.
If I look at all those issues, I can't see the Bucs keeping Aqib Talib this offseason. It would really hurt their secondary, as with Ronde Barber possibly retiring E.J. Biggers and Elbert Mack would suddenly be the Bucs' top two cornerbacks. The Bucs would be forced to either sign a cornerback (or two) in free agency, or spend some high draft picks on cornerbacks. But the secondary has been terrible this season anyway, and Aqib Talib's troubles are outweighing his talent.