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The Chiefs should trade for Aqib Talib (maybe)

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How’s that for clickbait, eh? If you haven’t heard, the Broncos (from multiple reports) are going to look to trade Aqib Talib this offseason. And apparently, the general consensus is that they’re going to release him if they can’t (due to cap concerns). Life comes at you fast.

But seriously, I’d totally trade for Aqib Talib ... I think.

Of course, there are plenty of non-football reasons to not do so. All you need to do is google him and you’ll find reports of issues with teammates, ripping chains off of chests (though in his defense, Michael Crabtree never shuts up), and shooting himself in the leg (apparently). I’ve personally said I don’t think he’s a particularly good human based on what I know, and I’m not sure I even phrased it that nicely.

That said... there are a lot of reasons this could make sense from a football perspective.

For starters, when I reviewed Tyreek Hill’s film this year, there was exactly one corner who gave him problems. It wasn’t Chris Harris Jr., it wasn’t Casey Heyward, and it wasn’t any of the other capable corners Hill faced. He had a lot of success against everyone. The only guy he didn’t beat consistently? Talib.

The reality is that Talib was a very good corner last season (don’t take my word for it, ask PFF if you’re looking for a non-Chiefs-person source). I went back and VERY quickly watched some snaps from the Broncos second-to-last game of the season, and Talib immediately showed up on film as a very good corner.

He’s got good anticipation of routes when in off man coverage, breaks on the ball well and his highly physical at the catch point.

That remind you of anyone? Sean Smith was able to play at a high level in Bob Sutton’s defense due to those exact traits (well, and a few more, which we’ll get to in a second). Sutton often asks his corners to be on an island alone against receivers on the outside, and Talib did so successfully with great consistency last year.

Talib additionally demonstrates quicker feet than you’d think for a bigger CB, especially one on the wrong side of 30. He’s able to use this (along with his ability to read WR’s) to mirror short routes well. He then uses his size to close of areas of the field and make catching the ball (and playing WR in general) quite difficult.

Does that look familiar at all? it should. Sean Smith had several very successful seasons in Kansas City (successful enough to get him paid in Oakland) by utilizing some of the exact same strengths that Talib shows: size, surprising quickness, the ability to read receivers, and some physicality.

The difference between the two? Talib has quicker feet and is superior contesting the ball. He’s a bit more physical too.

The reason I went back and reviewed Talib’s late-in-the-year snaps was to see whether he looked slow out there, as it being later in the season would make it more likely for a veteran to have started to tail off. Talib looked MAYBE a hair slower than he used to (though that may just have been me trying to see it), but overall he looked really, really solid. He rarely lost a route, and looked every bit as good as he looked against the Chiefs when I reviewed Hill’s film (again, he was the only corner to give Hill trouble).

Talib played a lot more off-man coverage last season and looked very comfortable doing it, using his anticipating and smarts to converge at the right time. He was also very comfortable in press man, whether jamming at the line of scrimmage or not. His hips were smooth turning and running, and he was consistently able to “move” receivers off their spot a bit without being obvious enough to draw attention from the refs. In short, he looked exactly like how he’s looked for years when he’s been infuriating me against the Chiefs.

Oh, and also, he’s a physical tackler who is a help against the run.

So in sum, Talib was quite good in 2017. So why would the Broncos move on from him, when they are projected to have plenty of room under the cap?

Well, if you click the link provided at the beginning of the article, the Broncos are apparently not fond of the idea of tying up $28 million bucks into cornerback next season, as they are (snickers) in need of some help on their roster (also, check out the comments. MHR users’ reactions should tell you what you need to know about Talib’s play this last season). So it’s a money move.

So why would the Chiefs, who don’t have any cap room (until the inevitable purge begins ... I wrote here how to clear up $30 million in room, and getting rid of Revis would add another bucket of cash), want to take on Talib’s contract? Well, let’s take a look at that deal. You can find it here on Spotrac.

What’s relevant to the Chiefs are as follows:

In 2018, Talib is due $12 million, $1 million of which is “dead money” (and so would count against the cap even if he were cut).

In 2019, Talib is due $8 million, none of which is dead money.

Talib becomes a free agent in 2020.

While $20 million over two years seems steep, it is cheaper than what the Chiefs would pay for a top tier free agent cornerback (at least one of the guys who is considered such, there’s no accounting for catching lightening in a bottle). For example, if the Chiefs want to sign Trumaine Johnson, they’ll almost certainly have to pay at least $15 million a year. So the price in 2018 doesn’t bother me after watching Talib’s level of play this season (especially considering they’re setting up to pay Revis $10 million if he stays with the team, and Revis wasn’t playing at nearly Talib’s level last year).

There’s a lot to like about what’s left on Talib’s contract besides a not-too-steep price. For starters, there’s only a million dollars left in dead money, and that’s only for 2018. In other words, if things don’t work out in 2018, the Chiefs can cut him with absolutely zero salary cap repercussions.

And if Talib plays well in 2018? They’re looking at a VERY friendly $8 million dollar season in 2019, a very good price for even a decent starting corner.

Another thing I like about this idea is that it’s a sure thing. If the Chiefs test the free agent market, they can’t be sure of signing Johnson, or E.J. Gaines, or Kyle Fuller, or Malcolm Butler, or whoever else you’re thinking of as a more long term player. Free agency is a two way street, and there are no guarantees the Chiefs are able to secure a genuine plus player at a position in such high demand. By trading for Talib, they create certainty.

So what about the character concerns? Well, that’s a legitimate question. For me, the general rule I’ve noticed is that guys who are difficult tend to mind their P’s and Q’s for at least a year on a new team, and I’m guessing that would apply to Talib. Additionally, the lack of dead money creates much less risk. For Talib, he couldn’t afford to get cut right after getting traded, as it would mean WAY less $ on the open market at that point. I don’t think it would be a problem because of the situation.

The only reason I could see not making an aggressive move like this is trade cost. Obviously, the Chiefs don’t have as much draft capital as normal this season due to the Mahomes trade and a few other moves. They have also traded away a fourth round pick in the 2019 draft. At a certain point, you can’t keep giving away something as valuable as draft picks.

HOWEVER ... given the lack of a potential trade market for Talib (at least, that’s what has been reported) and the fact that Denver gets nothing if they cut him, the Chiefs would have a chance to make this deal happen for very little on their part. If that’s the case, and you’re just talking a low round pick ... there’s no reason for me to not pull the trigger (assuming Denver is willing to deal with a division rival).

This is all, quite likely, mindless speculation. But there are enough pros here that I would give making a phone call some serious thought if I were Brett Veach.