The Los Angeles Rams aren’t afraid to shake up their roster, that’s for sure.
Less than two weeks after they traded for one talented cornerback with character concerns, the Rams added another to continue their defensive makeover.
Los Angeles finalised a deal to bring in Aqib Talib from the Denver Broncos for a fifth-round pick on Thursday, according to multiple reports, reuniting him with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and pairing with newly-acquired Marcus Peters to form one of the best cornerback duos in the league.
At 32, Talib is on the backside of his career, but remains one of the game’s premier pass-defenders. Though he failed to intercept more than one pass for the first time in his career last season, Talib was graded as the 15th best cornerback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
With the Rams, he won’t have to match-up against the opposing team’s best wide receiver every snap as the younger Peters will share the responsibility.
In Talib and Peters, Los Angeles now have two ball-hawks capable of turning any throw outside of the numbers into a turnover. While the Rams were tied for the sixth-most interceptions in the league in 2017, only seven of those came from cornerbacks. Peters alone had five last year, whereas Talib averages 3.4 per season.
Add in the recent low-cost signing of former Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields – who has 23 interceptions since entering the league in 2010 – along with the return of safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson, and Los Angeles have managed to construct one of the best secondaries around.
35 defensive backs had a PFF grade of 85+ last year. The Rams now have 4 of them in Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson. Once free agency begins and the trades are official, they'll be the only team with 4.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) March 9, 2018
Not only have the Rams improved the back-end of their defence, but they’ve done it by saving cap space.
If the acquisition of Peters was the nail in the coffin of Trumaine Johnson’s tenure with the team, the trade for Talib was the extra swing of the hammer.
After keeping Johnson on the franchise tag for the past two years, the Rams will now almost certainly let the cornerback walk in free agency, with his $16.7 million salary coming off the books.
Peters and Talib, meanwhile, will combine to make $12.7m in 2018 – $11.0m of which is owed to Talib, who is also slated to make $8.0m in 2019.
Talib’s contract was the impetus behind the decision to move on for Denver.
With the younger and better Chris Harris Jr already on the Broncos roster, along with the up-and-coming Bradley Roby, Talib became superfluous.
Considering the situation they were in, Denver did well to get anything in return for a player they were almost surely going to release.
With Talib’s salary wiped away, the Broncos could potentially use their savings to hand Roby a new contract – his contract will expire after his fifth-year option in 2018 – or make a stronger push for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Regardless of what the fifth-round draft pick they received nets them, Denver have put themselves in a better position to address their biggest weakness at the cost of a modest toll to their greatest strength.
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