Soon-to-be former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib wasn’t looking to leave. But he understands the business of the NFL.
In his first public comments since the Broncos traded him to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a 2018 draft pick, Talib told NFL Network’s James Palmer that he “definitely, definitely” wanted to stay in Denver but is excited about the “fourth quarter” of his NFL career, where he’ll be reunited with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
“I’ve been traded before so it’s not like this is the first time this is happening,” Talib told Palmer in Carrollton, Texas, where he and Broncos linebacker Von Miller held a grand opening for their “A-Plus D1” training facility. “It’s kind of what makes us pros. We can handle change fast. It’s sad in the sense to leave that locker room, to leave the coaches. I had a good relationship with John Elway. But it’s a business at the same time.”
With three cornerbacks set to cost nearly $30 million against the salary cap in 2018, the Broncos were expected to either trade or release Talib to save $11 million and clear room for Bradley Roby, a former first-round pick.
Talib realized as much, but still — he wanted to stay.
“Oh definitely, definitely,” he told Palmer. “I had established real friendships there. Robe. Chris (Harris). They’re my guys. Von. Stew (Darian Stewart). I established real friends there. Even (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods. We had a nice relationship. You’ll never just want to go. It wasn’t an issue where I wanted to get out of there. There’s no reason to want to get out of there. That’s a great organization. But it’s a business. We had too much talent on the backend. We got Roby, Chris, myself — it’s too many of us, so somebody has to go. And they’re going to keep that young talent. That’s how the business goes. You keep that young talent and the old guy gotta go somewhere. I’m just glad it was L.A.”
Talib’s exit came only six months after the release of safety T.J. Ward and a year after linebacker DeMarcus Ware’s retirement, putting a bow on Elway’s defensive overhaul from 2014. The three signed with the Broncos in March of that year to build what would become a Super Bowl-winning and historically elite defense. The Broncos’ secondary — with Talib, Harris, Stewart, Ward and Roby — billed itself the “No Fly Zone” as it led the league twice in passing defense over the last three years.
But the No Fly Zone is no more.
“It’s in the books now,” Talib said.
The Broncos are at a crossroads and now face perhaps the most important offseason of Elway’s tenure as an executive. They need a quarterback (maybe two), still need help on the offensive line and, in the wake of Talib’s exit, need a third corner and depth on defense. Though coach Vance Joseph was nearly on the outs following the team’s 5-11 finish in his first year at head coach, Talib said he believes Joseph can right the ship.
And to quash any rumors, Talib said there was never a rift between him and Joseph.
“Nah. Just regular player-coach stuff,” he said. “Me and Vance, we’re good. We had a great exit meeting at the end. He was honest with me. Never a riff. Vance is going to do a great job over there. He’s learning. He’s a new head coach and he’s finding his way. But he’s a great leader. Nah, never a rift. We never got in one argument. Never.”
Talib told Palmer he will fly out to Los Angeles on Sunday night and will take his physical Monday morning. If all checks out, the trade will be made official Wednesday, the start of the league year, and Talib will begin the final chapter of his career — as a Los Angeles Ram.