To think, when the Denver Broncos decided to pull out of negotiations with their own cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and move on to trying to sign Aqib Talib during free agency of 2014, Talib was considered the character risk.
Funny how it turned out.
Talib is now a Broncos’ captain. Rodgers-Cromartie has been suspended and will not play Sunday when his Giants play Talib’s Broncos at eventually to be renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
“Hey times change,’’ Talib said. “You live and you learn. I’m happy. Hopefully, the Broncos are happy.’’
NFL free agency had opened for business on March 11, 2014 and by 5 p.m., the free-agent Talib had not yet heard from the Broncos.
Until that point, the Broncos were confident they could wrap up negotiations with their own cornerback, Rodgers-Cromartie, on a six-year, $54 million contract.
“When you know a guy is as productive as DRC was, you want to try and keep him,’’ Talib said. “And they did try and that’s what they should have done. He was productive, he was here, he still could run. He was a good player. He’s been a good player since he’s been in the league, for Arizona, for the Giants, for the Broncos.’’
But Rodgers-Cromartie’s agent – Eugene Parker, one of the best in the business who died last year at 60 -- didn’t like that the Broncos’ proposal was only fully guaranteed for one year and $10 million. There were provisions in the contract proposal that made it likely Rodgers-Cromartie would earn $24 million over three years. But in football, tremendous value is placed on the word ‘’guarantee.’’
Broncos general manager John Elway, as he often does during these frenetic, free-agent periods, went as far as he could go and when it wasn’t good enough, he moved on.
To Talib, a free agent who was coming off his first Pro Bowl season following his first full year with the New England Patriots. Initially, Talib was in Rodgers-Cromartie’s position: Trying to re-sign with his current team. But the Patriots offer to Talib, as he understood it, was a series of one-year options.
Talks between Talib and the Broncos began a little after 5 p.m. March 11, and by 9:15 p.m., the deal was essentially done. Talib got six years and $57 million. Talib’s full guarantee was one year and $12 million -- $2 million more than the Broncos offered DRC. And Talib wound up collecting roughly $27 million over his first three seasons with the Broncos -- $3 million more than DRC would have made had he re-upped with Denver.
“He wound up getting a deal he wanted with the Giants and I wound up getting a deal I wanted in Denver,’’ Talib said. “We both ended up happy.’’
Rodgers-Cromartie wound up signing a five-year $35 million contract with the Giants that because of a $10 million signing bonus that was double what the Broncos were offering, fully guaranteed him $10.75 million in year one and all but guaranteed him $22 million through three seasons ($2 million less than what the Broncos offered him, although, again, there was a greater risk he would not see year 3).
How did it turn out? First, give credit to both Talib and Rodgers-Cromartie as each made it to the non-guaranteed portion of their respective contracts.
Talib in this, year 4 of his contract, is making $11 million. Rodgers-Cromartie is making $7 million this season (not including potential wages he may lose with the suspension). Both salaries are now considered team friendly as nine cornerbacks are making more than Talib this year and 23 are getting larger paychecks than DRC.
But Talib has unquestionably been the better player for the money. He has three Pro Bowls in three seasons with the Broncos; Rodgers-Cromartie has one Pro Bowl with the Giants. Talib has 11 interceptions with six returned for touchdowns for the Broncos; Rodgers-Cromartie has 11 picks with one returned for a touchdown with the Giants, although he also scored on a fumble return.
Talib plays with a fire that ignites the personality of the Broncos' No. 1-ranked defense. Rodgers-Cromartie is a far more docile sort, even if Giants head coach Ben McAdoo would beg to differ.
The Broncos have gone 36-16 and won a Super Bowl with Talib; the Giants have gone 23-30 with Rodgers-Cromartie.
This is most likely Rodgers-Cromartie’s final season with the Giants. Talib has no guarantees past this season but the way he’s been playing, his $11 million salary in 2018 and $8 million in 2019 – even at the relatively advanced ages of 32 and 33 – are tremendous values.
The moral of the story is, sometimes it’s better to take it than leave it. And a team is better off when it goes to plan B.