Updates from Wednesday, April 9
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun provides an update on Champ Bailey's contract with the New Orleans Saints:
Champ Bailey two-year Saints deal: $3.75 million base value, $500,000 bonus, $1 million, $1.5 million base salaries— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) April 9, 2014
Champ Bailey gets $250,000 if he's on the 2015 53-man roster for first game; annual $150K incentive, annual $150K Pro Bowl incentive— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) April 9, 2014
Champ Bailey is heading to the New Orleans Saints after the veteran defensive back reached a two-year deal following his release from the Denver Broncos. The team announced the deal on Friday:
Mike Triplett of ESPN first provided word of the agreement:
#Saints have agreed to 2-year deal with CB Champ Bailey, per source.— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) April 4, 2014
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports confirmed:
Champ Bailey's agent confirms he's reached agreement on a two-year deal with the Saints, as @MikeTriplett reported.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 4, 2014
ESPN's Adam Schefter announced that its a two-year, $7 million deal:
Saints are giving former Broncos CB Champ Bailey a two-year deal with a max value of $7 million.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2014
Bailey is coming off the least productive season of his illustrious career. He played in just five games during the regular season due to a foot injury. When he did try to play through the pain in the playoffs, he didn't perform anything like the top cornerback he has always been.
However, Denver Post reporter Mike Klis notes that Bailey will compete for a starting job:
Champ Bailey will compete for a starting CB job with Saints. "That's where we're starting," he said. "That's all I wanted."— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) April 4, 2014
The Broncos decided to move in another direction to save cap room rather than hope the 35-year-old star could bounce back in 2014. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported the team was saving $10 million by making the move:
The Broncos will be releasing CB Champ Bailey, according to an NFL source. He was set to earn $9M this season with a cap # of $10M— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 6, 2014
In turn, Bailey hit the market at an inopportune time. Despite his status as one of the best defensive backs of his generation, teams are more worried about the immediate past than an entire career track record while searching to fill a void.
As Pro Football Focus noted, even when he was healthy during his final season with the Broncos he played mostly in the slot:
Champ Bailey has played 84% of his snaps in the slot since returning in Week 16— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 3, 2014
When asked to move outside, he didn't display the same range or elite cover skills that were on full display during his prime. It leaves plenty of questions about what type of player he can be in 2014 and beyond.
Mike Klis of The Denver Post passed along comments from Bailey's agent, Jack Reale, who said the corner's play was due to injury and not a drop-off in ability:
Champ is appreciative of the 10 years he had there. It's unfortunate frankly that he tried to play hurt this year. Because most people with that injury would wind up on IR (injured reserve). But he felt this was a year they were going to go to the Super Bowl, and he was dadgum if he was going to watch that game from the press box or sidelines.
So he tried to get it done. And unfortunately everybody wants to judge him based on playing hurt. Which is how it goes in the league. Rarely, if ever do you get an 'attaboy' if you don't play as well hurt as you do when your (sic) healthy.
Will Bailey return to form in 2014?
Now Bailey will get a chance to prove him right. Exactly what role he'll have is unclear at the outset. He obviously has corner experience on both the inside and out, but a move to safety could also be in the cards, giving him a chance to use those ball-hawking instincts.
As long as he stays healthy, there's a good chance he'll be productive. Perhaps he won't perform at the same level as he did in his tremendous peak seasons with the Broncos, but he'll definitely fare better than he did in his final season with the team. It could take him a little while to adapt if he switches positions, though.
Whatever Bailey does in the remaining portion of his career won't do much to change his lasting legacy—unless, of course, it's something positive like capturing a Super Bowl title.