DENVER -- Sitting at the top of an escalator, a few feet from a Starbucks, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips wore a smile at the NFL Combine last week.
He continues to possess the energy and drive to win another championship. Talk shifted to his defense, and the possibility of reuniting with Talib. He bristled at suggestions that Talib's game had declined. Without saying anything, Phillips made it clear he would welcome Talib on his defense, joining All-Pro corner Marcus Peters.
Thursday night, he received his wish. The Broncos agreed to send the All-Pro cornerback to the Rams in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this April's draft, according to NFL sources.
The news, while not unexpected, hit teammates hard. Talib remained well-respected in the locker room, and was voted a team captain a year ago. He became the soundtrack of the defense, and is credited for creating an edge that helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
"We are going to miss him," said linebacker Brandon Marshall, "and his ferociousness."
Or as defensive end Derek Wolfe put it, "It sucks to lose Talib."
General manager John Elway painted a dim picture of Talib returning when discussing roster moves last week. The move was driven not by salary -- though it shifts $11 million off the books -- as much as a desire to clear a path for Bradley Roby. The Broncos coaches believe he's ready for a full-time starting role opposite of Chris Harris Jr. after strong performances last season, including at Miami and Oakland.
"Bradley is first-round pick. He should play well for us. I am not surprised when he makes plays, and when he plays at a high level. That's what he should do," coach Vance Joseph said. "He's definitely capable."
Talib proved to be one of the best free agent additions in Broncos' history. He made the Pro Bowl in all four seasons in Denver, and earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2016. He had a knack for the big play, returning six interceptions for touchdowns with Denver.
However, Talib is 32-years-old on a team attempting to become younger. Roby turns 26 in May, and is entering the final season of his rookie contract. If he plays as the Broncos expect, he could become a core member of the defense moving forward.
The deal also creates more salary cap space to pursue a free agent quarterback. The Broncos have yet to make a firm decision on their path. They will pursue Kirk Cousins, but could determine the price is too rich to allow them to address other roster needs. Case Keenum is an option, again price willing. Or the Broncos could go with a true bridge player like Tyrod Taylor, Cade McCown or Sam Bradford, and draft a quarterback with the fifth overall selection.
The next Broncos player in jeopardy is running back C.J. Anderson. Elway indicated last week that he could not guarantee Anderson returns. Anderson, who eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing last season, would prefer to stay, but understands his future is uncertain. The team is bullish on Devontae Booker's potential, and it would surprise no one if the Broncos drafted a running back.
With the Talib deal, the Broncos own 11 picks in the upcoming draft, giving them flexibility to maneuver and package selections to move up, if necessary.