NFL Free Agent Predictions: 10 Destinations For Champ Bailey In 2011
It’s been a helluva run in Denver for Champ Bailey, ever since Mike Shanahan swindled his current team, the Redskins, to acquire him for Clinton Portis in 2004.
But with the Broncos committed to rebuilding after a 4-12 season, Bailey’s Denver days appear to be numbered. Even though Bailey has expressed a desire to return, Broncos new VP of Football operations John Elway was noncommittal on the subject when asked yesterday.
Bailey and the Broncos were reportedly close to a four-year, $44 million in November, but the Broncos backed off as their season continued to go south. It’s understandable: Bailey will turn 33 in June, and history hasn’t been kind to aging corners.
Still, there will be no shortage of suitors for one of the best corners ever who’s still playing at a pretty high level. The following is a list of possible destinations.
1. Houston Texans
They’re frighteningly poor pass defense is well-documented. The Texans finished last in the league in passing yards allowed and second-to-last in yards per attempt.
Bailey would be a good mentor for Kareem Jackson, the Texans rookie cornerback who struggled in his first year but has plenty of potential.
The Texans lost Dunta Robinson to free agency before the 2010 season, and they never recovered. Despite their disappointing season overall, their offense was still excellent. If they can cobble together a defense approaching respectability in 2011, they can have the breakthrough season everyone expected in 2010.
2. Dallas Cowboys
Big names continue to hold allure over Jerry Jones. This is especially true if that big name is still a good cover-man, and Jones has just seen his team finish fifth worst in the NFL in yards allowed per attempt.
There is no shortage of dangerous passing games in the NFC East. The Cowboys need help here, and Bailey would provide it.
Signing Bailey would likely mean parting ways with Terrence Newman at some point, though possibly not for 2011. Newman inked a $50 million extension before the 2008 season, but only $22.5 was guaranteed, and $12 million was contained in a signing bonus.
Bringing in Bailey would create a healthy competition between Newman and Mike Jenkins, who massively underachieved last year and has had just one effective season of his three in the league.
Bailey has also expressed a willingness to slide over to safety, a weak position for the Cowboys.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Considering the surprising success the Jaguars enjoyed for most of the season, it’s surprising how terrible their pass defense was. But it was: The Jags finished dead last in the league in yards allowed per attempt.
Several crushing late-season losses – to the Giants, Colts, and Redskins – could have turned out differently had they defended the pass better late in games.
Rashean Mathis was once of the league’s league’s best corners and an unsung star, but he’s been in serious decline for several years and will be 31 next year. He has one more year on his contract.
Derek Cox, the starter opposite Mathis, is serviceable at best, and was probably the Jaguars best corner last year.
Bailey grew up on just across the Florida-Georgia border on the Georgia side, so Jacksonville seems like a natural place for him to wind down his career.
4. Oakland Raiders
Wouldn’t Al Davis love this?
The only problem is that it doesn’t make all that much sense. The Raiders finished a perfectly respectable 10th in the league in yards allowed per attempt last year, they already have a lot of money tied up in Nnamdi Asomugha (who’s as good as ever), and Stanford Routt is serviceable on the other side.
Their top offseason priority must be signing Richard Seymour, for whom they traded the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft.
So signing Bailey probably isn’t the best allocation of resources. But when it comes to Al Davis spiting the Broncos, you can never rule anything out.
5. Washington Redskins
For as much as Daniel Snyder loved Clinton Portis, he still must see Bailey as The One That Got Away.
Portis will probably be gone next year, so maybe Snyder will throw millions Bailey’s way and pretend that the trade never happened.
The signing would enable the Redskins to keep up with the high-octane NFC East passing games. They didn’t fare so well in this regard in 2010, finishing fourth-worst in the league in yards allowed per attempt.
The move would also reunite Bailey with coach Mike Shanahan. As far as high-priced veterans go, Shanahan will probably enjoy Bailey more than those Haynesworth and McNabb characters.
6. New England Patriots
The Patriots have been able to overcome their poor pass defense – eighth-worst in the league in yards allowed per attempt – to this point. But should it be their downfall in the postseason, don’t be shocked if Bill Belichick makes a splash here.
Devin McCourty made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but the other cornerback spot has been a liability. If McCourty regresses in his sophomore season, the secondary might become a disaster.
For all the Patriots success, it’s important to remember that they haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. No, Champ Bailey isn’t getting any younger. But neither is Bill Belichick.
7. Seattle Seahawks
The acute nature of this need will likely reveal itself after Sunday’s game against the Saints. The Seahawks finished 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed per attempt. If they want to maintain their status as a “playoff team,” an upgrade is necessary.
Marcus Trufant was once an above average corner, but now he’s a brittle, slowed-down version of his former self. Kelly Jennings’ reputation as a first rounder from Miami faded long ago.
The Seahawks probably realize that they’re still in rebuilding mode, and that pricey contracts to veterans aren’t prudent. But just like this year, the NFC West title will be a reasonable aspiration for the 2011 Seahawks, and Bailey can only help.
8. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens secondary was considered a team weakness heading into the year, but it’s actually held up pretty well. The Ravens rank ninth in the league in yards allowed per attempt.
But this says more about the talent surrounding the Ravens pedestrian corners than the corners themselves. The Ravens have maintained an excellent defense without top-flight corners, but if other facets slip, that won’t be the case.
At this time last year, the big concern in Baltimore was Ed Reed’s threat to retire. Reed has since changed his tune, now saying he wants to play “until the Ravens kick me out of here,” but his fickleness makes his future a question mark.
It’s not hard to picture Bailey sliding over to safety in his twilight years just like Deion Sanders did when he played in Baltimore.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Remember when the 49ers were the consensus pick for the NFC West? What happened since then?
Well, a lot of things. Everybody knows how poor their quarterback play was, but their ability to defend other teams’ quarterbacks was nearly as putrid. The 49ers finished 22nd in the league against the pass, which is worse than it seems considering the atrocious NFC West passing games they faced.
The advanced stats of FootballOutsiders.com show the 49ers acute need for a “shutdown” corner like Bailey. According to their stats, the 49ers ranked third worst in the league against No. 1 receivers.
The 49ers might be gun-shy about pursuing Bailey after their negative experience with Nate Clements. Clements is still on the team and is serviceable, though he might have punched his ticket out of town with his catastrophic fumble that cost the 49ers a win in Atlanta and dug their early-season hole deeper.
But 2011 is a new year, and hope springs particularly eternal in the NFC West. Next year, it's possible that Champ Bailey + Adequacy at the Quarterback Position = Playoffs.
10. Miami Dolphins
Any team saddled with the task of saddling the Patriots passing game twice a year needs good corners. The Dolphins have one in Vontae Davis, but Sean Smith is marginal on the other side.
Bailey would improve a pass defense that ranked 21st in yards allowed per attempt last year.
The Dolphins had a rough year, losing their last three games to go 7-9, but they were better than both their record and conventional statistics indicated. According to FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metric – which puts yardage stats in a play-by-play context – the Dolphins ranked higher than the playoff bound Colts, Bears, and Chiefs.
If they get decent quarterback play next year, they’re not far from contention. Bailey could push them over the top as a playoff team.