Michael Crabtree can rest easy. His chains are a little more safe — for now.
The Denver Broncos traded five-time Pro Bowler Aqib Talib to the Rams on Friday, according to NFL Network’s James Palmer. The Broncos will get a 2018 fifth-round pick for Talib, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The deal will become official when the new league year begins on March 14, but Talib tweeted his farewell to Denver a day after the trade was reported.
Talib was interested in two teams: the Rams, or the Patriots, according to Schefter. He got his wish to reunite with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in Los Angeles. Phillips spent two years as Talib’s defensive coordinator in Denver.
That ends Talib’s tenure in the AFC West. That’s good news for Crabtree — his showdowns against the standout corner repeatedly ended in chain-snatching skirmishes. Now Crabtree won’t face Talib twice a season ... though the Rams do play the Raiders in 2018.
Talib had a penchant for getting inside opponent’s heads on the field and finding himself in trouble off it. His tenure with Tampa Bay, the franchise that drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2008, ended after testing positive for Adderall. That issue helped facilitate between the Buccaneers and Patriots, where Talib immediately became one of the team’s best defensive playmakers.
He’d make his first Pro Bowl the following season, then depart in free agency to sign a six-year, $57 million deal with the Broncos. He’d been just as good in Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors each year with the team, returning six interceptions for touchdowns, and making five tackles in his team’s 24-10 Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers. Despite a down year in interceptions and tackle, Talib was rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks last season. When he was, he was still quite efficient in coverage.
Talib, however, is 32 years old. Parting ways with him saves the Broncos $11 million this year and $20 million in future salaries. It likely wasn’t a surprise for Talib, who tweeted “who’s coming to get me??” after an NFL.com report said the Broncos were looking to move him.
What does this mean for the Broncos? Denver has plenty of holes to fill this offseason after a 5-11 season sunk the team to the bottom of the AFC West. Fortunately for general manager John Elway, the team has few priority free agents to re-sign, and cutting Talib gives the franchise more cap space to work with this offseason.
Priority No. 1 will be finding a quarterback — perhaps Kirk Cousins — to replace the ineffective three-headed Paxton Lynch-Trevor Siemian-Brock Osweiler monster.
As good as Talib as been during his tenure, the Broncos have his replacement all ready to go: Bradley Roby, their 2014 first-round pick. Roby has started just 16 times in his four-year career, but he’s played in all 64 regular season games. The uber-athletic corner also shown a knack for making plays, totaling six interceptions (including two pick-sixes) and five forced fumbles in that time.
What does this mean for the Rams? It means that every quarterback who has to face Los Angeles this year ought to be worried. Talib paired with Marcus Peters and Lamarcus Joyner, who was just tagged by the Rams, makes that backfield awfully fierce.
The Rams defense was solid last year under Phillips. But this offseason has already seen several big moves from the Rams — trading with the Chiefs to acquire Peters, slapping the tag on Joyner, sending Robert Quinn to the Dolphins, bringing in Talib, signing Sam Shields, and shipping Alec Ogletree off to the Giants.
This move also means that Trumaine Johnson will hit free agency. That’s a smart financial play for the Rams.
Rams are now officially moving on from their twice-franchised CB Trumaine Johnson.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2018
But it makes financial sense:
Trumaine Johnson made $16.7 million last season.
Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters will make a combined $12.7 million this year.
Phillips is stocking his defense with players who fit his scheme. That, coupled with another offseason under Phillips for the remaining defenders, should push the Rams to new heights in 2018.