The New Orleans Saints returned to the postseason last year, in large part due to a remarkable defensive turnaround under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan.
The Saints aren't resting on their laurels in that regard, and while bringing veteran cornerback Champ Bailey on board might not mean what it did the last time Bailey switched teams, the future Hall of Famer still brings quite a bit to the table.
The Saints website was among the first to break the news that Bailey had agreed to a two-year deal to join New Orleans after 10 seasons with the Denver Broncos:
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com passed along some of the financial details of the contract:
CB Champ Bailey’s 2-year deal in New Orleans can be worth as much as $7M, source says. The #Saints have given him some guaranteed money.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 4, 2014
New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis lauded the Bailey signing in a statement, according to Mike Triplett of ESPN:
We are excited to be able to add a future Hall of Fame player with the addition of Champ Bailey. His career accomplishments mirror that of his high character and he's a very prideful and competitive player who we believe will add to our defense. Having spent time with him recently and in our discussions with him, I know that he's thrilled to be joining the New Orleans Saints and starting a new chapter in his professional life.
In many respects, it's hard to argue with Loomis, because when all is said and done, Champ Bailey will all but certainly be fitted for one of those hideous beige blazers in Canton.
Seriously. Guys, it's the Hall of Fame. Can we do something about the coats? It's 2014.
Still, it's also not all that hard to see why the Broncos released the 35-year-old rather than pay him $10 million in 2014.
Bailey missed 11 games last year with a foot injury. When he did return, he clearly wasn't "right." Coupled with the rough outing he had in the playoffs against Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens two years ago, the perception that Father Time has caught up to Bailey has some merit.
With that said, though, the postseason misstep against the Ravens flew in the face of what was an otherwise very solid season for Bailey in 2012. He was a top-10 cornerback that season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
In fact, last year wasn't the only season Bailey scuffled in the eyes of PFF, but you didn't see anyone throwing dirt on a 29-year-old Bailey back in 2007.
Besides, no one expects that Champ Bailey to show up anyway. He cost quite a bit more than the $3.5 million a season this Bailey got from the Saints.
The player who will show up, however, can still help the Saints plenty.
Sure, the Saints finished last year second in the NFL in pass defense, but it was a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" type of deal.
In fact, part of the reason Bailey wound up in New Orleans may well be that the Saints can offer Bailey an opportunity to start opposite Keenan Lewis. That opportunity belies the fact the Saints aren't exactly loaded at the position.
Or, perhaps the Saints have Bailey pegged for a role in the slot. Granted, Bailey struggled badly there when last we saw him in Super Bowl XLVIII (the first of his illustrious career), but you try chasing someone on one foot.
Then there are those who believe that Bailey would be best served by going the Woodson route (Charles, Rod, dealer's choice) and making the twilight shuffle to the safety position (where the Saints have a hole after Malcolm Jenkins' departure):
Talked to a few defensive coaches and personnel folks in recent weeks if @champbailey is healthy -- hybrid S/nickel CB role would be best.— Jeff Legwold (@Jeff_Legwold) April 4, 2014
Whatever the case, what Bailey brings between the lines isn't the whole story either. We're talking about one of the best cornerbacks to ever lace them up, as well as a consummate professional throughout his career.
The Saints could do worse as a mentor and on-field coach of sorts for young defensive backs like Lewis and safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Granted, nothing's guaranteed. Bailey turns 36 in June, and 2014 will mark his 16th season in the National Football League. That's a long ride, and eventually, that ride ends for everyone.
Still, Bailey thinks he has at least one more campaign left, as he attempts to obtain the only thing that has eluded him to this point in his career.
Given the versatility and experience he brings with him to the Superdome, it's hard to fault the Saints for agreeing with him.