On the field, Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib is arguably one of the best to play his position in the National Football League. Pro Football Focus has him graded behind only his teammate Chris Harris Jr, with three interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 12 passes defensed in 2016.
And Talib has been recognized several times for his accomplishments this season, earning a Pro Bowl nod, a first-team All-Pro selection, and, on Tuesday, a selection to the Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL Team.
“He’s one of the best corners in all the National Football League,” said Mark Schlereth, co-host of 104.3 The Fan’s “Schlereth and Evans.” “But the biggest thing about Aqib Talib is the energy level that he brings to the football team. He becomes the voice of the football team.”
However, Schlereth cautioned for fans who may be rubbed the wrong way by some of Talib’s extracurricular antics — both on and off the field — to not put too much stock in what makes a great leader in an NFL locker room, like the 30-year-old defensive back.
“Sometimes you’ve got to have that guy who’s a little bit touched. Sometimes you’ve got to have that guy that’s got your back even when he probably shouldn’t have your back. And that’s Aqib Talib. That’s what you want,” Schlereth said.
Twice this season, the defense’s frustration in carrying the Broncos offense spilled over into the public sphere, with Talib shoving teammate and punt returner Jordan Norwood after a muffed catch and shouting down offensive tackle Russell Okung when he attempted to speak after a tough loss.
Couple those on the field, or near the field, run-ins with teammates with off the field incidents throughout his career, including an incident in early June in which police determined an intoxicated Talib shot himself at a Dallas-area park, leading him to miss much of the offseason with two gunshot wounds to his right leg.
But despite the transgressions, Schlereth and his co-host, Mike Evans, said Tuesday that his talent and leadership outweigh any potential trouble he brings.
“You look at Aqib Talib, and I see a great player. But his antics, his actions, rub a lot of Broncos fans the wrong way, to the point where is he really worth the trouble? I think he’s worth whatever trouble he may be,” Evans said.
Talib is also entering the final year of his four-year deal with Denver, with a salary that jumps from $8.5 million in 2016 to $11 million in 2017. And a dead cap total of just $1 million, according to spotrac.com, Talib could be a veteran cap casualty, Evans said.
However, 9News Broncos Insider Mike Klis told “Schlereth and Evans” on Tuesday that he’s hearing Talib will be back in 2017 — despite the possibility of a lingering suspension regarding the Dallas incident, a year in which he missed three games with a lower back injury, and no more guaranteed money on his contract — though the soon-to-be 31-year-old could be the potential victim of a pay cut.
“I hear he’s just too good of a player, and they’ve had enough change and transition,” Klis said, referring to the recent head coaching change from Gary Kubiak to Vance Joseph and departure of popular defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
“You lose Wade Phillips; you can’t afford to lose Aqib Talib. He’s the second-best player on the team, not just the second-best player on defense behind Von Miller but probably better than any guy they have on offense going right now.”
Klis added: “I think the decision will be to bring Aqib Talib back, but he’s definitely in that category where it’s hardly a guarantee.”
Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @johnnyhart7.