Since joining the Broncos in 2014, Aqib Talib has been an electric playmaker for a Denver defense that has become one of the best in the NFL. However, with all of the game-changing plays came much controversy on and off the field.
Talib’s incredible talent speaks for itself. In 2016, he was voted first team All-Pro by the Associated Press and Pro Football Focus, registering three interceptions and 12 passes defensed. Whether it was locking down an opponent’s No. 1 receiver or making a game-changing interception, fans have become accustomed to Talib playing his best when it was needed most.
Undoubtedly, Talib has been a huge asset to the famed “No Fly Zone.” However, ever since coming into the league with Tampa Bay in 2008, Talib has been subject to many legal and off the field distractions that have somewhat tainted his image in the eyes of the media and some Broncos fans.
More recently, in the 2016 offseason, Talib grabbed headlines across the league when he was suddenly admitted to the hospital for an apparent gunshot wound. Controversy swirled around Talib as reports surfaced that the wound was “self-inflicted.” The NFL has yet to suspend Talib for the incident, but many fear that a suspension could come prior to next season.
This season, Talib garnered the media’s attention when he shoved teammate Jordan Norwood in the back after a fumbled punt. Incidents such as this, snatching the chain off of Raiders’ wide receiver Michael Crabtree and a supposed locker room shouting match with teammate Russell Okung, have left many fans and members of the Denver sports media to pose the question: “should Talib should continue to don No. 21 for the Denver Broncos?”
The answer is: yes. Talib’s on and off the field distractions may be frustrating to watch, but his production and (surprising) leadership is invaluable to the Denver Broncos’ success.
To put things in perspective, Talib is only the 13th highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. He is currently making less money than names like Darrelle Revis, Trumaine Johnson and Byron Maxwell. A $9.5 million salary is a bargain for the production Talib has produced for Denver’s elite defense.
If Talib were to be released or traded, like many fans have clamored for, the Broncos would be a much less effective unit. A Talib release/trade would force Chris Harris Jr. away from his elite play as a slot cover corner and into the undisputed top spot, while elevating Bradley Roby to the no. 2 corner.
Awards and accolades aside, the Broncos need a veteran leader in the locker room that can ignite and inspire better play from those around him. Though rough around the edges, that is exactly what Talib does.
The Broncos’ players are facing enough change to begin the 2017 season. A transition in position coaches, a much needed “swagger” for the offense, and a new head coach is a lot for players to digest. Parting ways with electric superstar Aqib Talib would not make these transitions any easier.