The Ramifications of the Champ Bailey Trade

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The Ramifications of the Champ Bailey Trade
(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Washington Redskins have made no secret of their passion for offseason action under owner Dan Snyder's reign. The team has traded high draft picks and allowed future stars to walk away in favor of the marquee free agent.

This stigma is epitomized by the Champ Bailey trade after the 2003-2004 season.

Taken with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, Champ Bailey established himself as a great talent at corner very early on in his career. He had the luxury of playing with NFL legends like Deion Sanders and Darrell Green, which no doubt helped him learn the ins and outs of his position.

To his credit, Bailey started every single game when he was with the Redskins. He totalled 18 interceptions during his five years with the team and was widely considered to be one of the best shutdown corners in the league.

And he was only 25 years old.

Champ Bailey started his career better than anyone could have expected and looked poised to become a cornerstone for the Redskins' defense for years to come.

Then the 2003-2004 season ended and he was shipped to Denver, along with a a second round draft pick for Clinton Portis.

At the time, Clinton Portis was only 22 and had already rushed for 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had established himself as one of the best young outside running backs in the league. In terms of the potential return the trade made perfect sense.

Of course, potential is always a dangerous word.

Clinton Portis' statistics were as much a product of his talents as they were a product of Denver's stretch run game. Denver's system had made a name for itself as one of the best and hurtled the likes of Terrell Davis into the elite level of NFL rushers.

Clinton Portis was not an every down back the way Davis was and made his name running around defenses and not through them.

He was supposed to be the savior of the Washington offense, which had fallen on hard times at almost every position except the offensive line.

His first run as a Washington Redskins was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and went for 63 yards and a touchdown. Since his first season with the team, Portis's longest runs have decreased in length and his carry totals have increased.

He responded by packing on a reported 20 pounds of muscle to his sub-200 pound frame coming from Denver.

Clinton Portis's averages suffered in Washington in the power running scheme the team ran. His career average in his first two season in the league was 5.5 yards per carry.

His first season with the Redskins his average dropped to 3.8 yards per carry on nearly 50 more carries than his previous season.

It took Portis nearly four seasons in Washington to match the touchdown total of his two season with the Broncos.

Champ Bailey's career took a drastically different turn than Portis's.

Since his move to Denver, Champ Bailey has become the premier shutdown corner in the NFL. Even at 31 years of age he can still run with the best in the league.

Bailey had to adapt to a more physical style of play in Denver, which got him injured a few times, but it wasn't until last season that he missed significant time because of it.

In the five years Champ Bailey has been with the Broncos, he has been named to four Pro Bowls, 25 interceptions and made almost 100 more tackles.

It is impossible to say what either player would have done if they had remained with their original teams, but look at the history of their positions since the trade.

Since the 2004 season, the Broncos have tried to find a replacement at running back with guys like Tatum Bell, Travis Henry, Mike Bell, Quentin Griffin and they even tried to draft the Ohio State star and all around malcontent Maurice Clarett.

Their search to replace Portis is ongoing, but rookie Knowshon Moreno has shown promise and may be the answer the running back question for Denver.

Since Champ Bailey left a void at corner for the Redskins, there has been a revolving door of poor substitutes. Players like Rashad Bauman, Pat Dennis, John Eubanks, Walt Harris, Ade Jimoh, David Macklin, Leigh Torrence and countless others have occupied the cornerback position since the close of the 2003 season.

The drafting of Carlos Rogers, the signing of DeAngelo Hall, the return of Fred Smoot and the former leadership from current New England Patriot Shawn Springs has brought life back to the cornerback spot for the Redskins and could return to respect this season.

Champ Bailey leaving Washington threw the secondary into upheaval. There was always worry that an opponent would exploit the inexperience or talent deficiency at the Redskins' corner position to win games.

Looking at where the careers of Portis and Bailey have ended up I would gladly have kept Champ for the long haul. I stand by the fact that Ladell Betts could have, at the very least, served as a suitable stand-in for the next big back to land in Washington.

Just look at what he did when Portis was injured for more than half of the 2006 season.

It goes a long way towards the idea that great corners don't come along very often and Champ Bailey is one of the best in the game. Clinton Portis is a gamer for the Redskins, but I can't help but wonder what the team would look like with Champ still on defense and Ladell Betts carrying the ball every down.

There will always be that lingering question, though.

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