They’re going to miss Aqib Talib around here.
The menacing chain yanks off the neck of Michael Crabtree. The occasional poke to Dwayne Allen’s eye. His accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound that hospitalized Talib for a few days and forced him to miss the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 trip to the Barack Obama White House.
There was also Talib's big smile, high-pitched voice and cackling laugh. He was a ballhawk and annual Pro Bowler. His term was marked with on-field fights and postgame threats against opponents like Harry Douglas.
What a trip it’s been. Talib’s drama-filled, four-year journey with the Denver Broncos reached its end Wednesday when they traded the excitable and talented cornerback to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a late-round draft pick, an agent source confirmed to 9NEWS. Multiple outlets said the Broncos will get a fifth-round draft pick in return for Talib.
9News was the first report Talib was expected to be on the trading block back on January 28 as he was about to wear a Broncos helmet for the final time in the Pro Bowl. NFL Network was the first to report of the Talib trade to Los Angeles.
More than the draft pick -- which would be the team's 11th in the seven-round -- the Broncos saved $11 million in cash and cap space. The Broncos need all the cap space they can get if they are to become competitive bidders for free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins next week.
The trade won’t become official until the start of the league season at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Clearly, the Broncos were ready to move on from Talib. Trading him away despite his accomplishments was motivated largely by his advanced age combined with his handsome salary. Talib is 32, which is up there as NFL cornerbacks go. His remaining contract calls for him to make $11 million in base salary in 2018 and $8 million in 2019.
While that’s considered team-friendly compensation for a player who was named All-Pro in 2016, it’s too much when his heir apparent, Bradley Roby, jis umping from a $1.02 million salary in 2017 to $8.526 million in 2018, while the Broncos’ other cornerback, Chris Harris Jr., will make $8.6 million.
The Broncos will be shopping for a No. 3-caliber cornerback to replace Roby's former role in free agency, a group that includes the likes of Ross Cockrell, Aaron Colvin, Tramaine Brock, T.J. Carrie, Patrick Robinson, Nevin Lawson and Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The Broncos moved Talib on the same day they picked up a $1.1 million on Harris, assuring the right cornerback’s return. In 2015 and ‘16, Harris and Talib formed what may well have been the best cornerback duo in the NFL. The two had a special bond as they played together for Kansas during the Jayhawks’ 12-1, Orange Bowl season of 2007.
“Gonna miss my Dawg @aqibtalib21,’’ Harris stated Wednesday night on Twitter. “Brother on and off the field. I know he gone Ball with Rams.’’
It’s possible another reason why the Broncos traded away Talib is they simply became fatigued with all his drama. Fiercely loyal to his teammates, Talib was a highly emotional player who could become agitated into an altercation.
If anybody can handle him, though, it’s Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips guided the famed 2015 Denver defense to the Super Bowl title with Talib as his left corner.
That defense foremost featured a ferocious pass rush led by Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe, and was supported by a No Fly Zone secondary that included Talib, Harris, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Roby.
Ware has since retired, Jackson became a free agent and signed with Jacksonville, Ward was released last year and now Talib is gone.
Sean McVay was named the NFL’s coach of the year after his terrific first season with the Rams, but he hasn’t seen anything yet. Besides Talib, the Rams earlier acquired another stormy but talented cornerback in Marcus Peters from Kansas City.
Man-to-man press coverage is a staple with Phillips’ defenses. And apparently, so are volatile, if mega-talented players. The Rams will play both Peters' former Chiefs and Talib's former Broncos this year, possibly in back-to-back weeks. The Rams "host" the Chiefs in Mexico City and because they'll be playing at high altitude, the NFL is considering have Los Angeles play at Denver either the week prior or week after.
In the end, Talib was a great Bronco. Of his 11 interceptions with the team, six were returned for touchdowns. He had a temper but he also had four Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring in his four seasons with the Broncos.
Fairly or unfairly, right or wrong, the Broncos felt four seasons was enough.