How do the Denver Broncos replace Champ Bailey?
By Cecil Lammey
|Former Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey takes a knee during Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
The Broncos went ahead and decided to cut ties with Bailey. It’s a painful decision for Broncos Country, as Bailey has been a long-time fan favorite.
Before Bailey was cut, the Broncos had about $17.9 million available to spend in free agency. Now that they have $10 million more, Denver will have nearly $28 million to spend. With a few more moves, like possibly releasing Chris Kuper and/or Joel Dreessen, the Broncos could have well over $30 million available to them.
Now the question becomes: How do the Broncos replace Bailey?
Looking over the available free agents
, the cornerback position is full of talent. The Broncos will have a nice group to pick from, and they’ll have plenty of money to throw around on the open market.
First and foremost, I expect the Broncos to re-sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He was the team’s best cornerback in 2013, and Rodgers-Cromartie regained the swagger he lost during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.
His contract could pay him around $9 million annually. That price tag is a fair price for a player who was an impact starter for the Broncos in 2013.
Chris Harris is coming back from a partially torn ACL injury he suffered in the playoff game against the San Diego Chargers. His status for the start of training camp is up in the air right now. The Broncos need to add more talent at the cornerback position so they have better depth in the secondary.
One free agent available is Nolan Carroll (Miami Dolphins). He played as a nickel corner with the Dolphins, and he could be a decent spot starter for the Broncos if Harris is delayed in his recovery. Carroll had a $677,000 cap number last year, and his new contract may not pay him more than $2 million to $3 million annually.
Another corner the Broncos could go after is Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans). The 25-year-old played for $1.4 million last year, and his new contract will be much larger. It would be a significant investment for the Broncos to sign him, especially if they spend big money on a safety upgrade like T.J. Ward.
If the Broncos are OK with spending a larger amount, then Sam Shields (Green Bay Packers) could be an option. He’s one of the best young corners in the game today, and he could earn a salary that pays him $6 million to $7 million annually.
How do the Broncos replace Champ Bailey? Replacing a future (likely first-ballot) Hall of Famer is incredibly difficult, but the Broncos need to get younger and faster in the secondary. Any of the players I’ve listed would be fine additions for the Broncos as free agency is set to open up on March 11.
Down goes the Champ: Broncos reportedly to cut Bailey, free up $10M in cap space
By Johnny Hart
Champ Bailey during Super Bowl XLVIII. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Champ Bailey summed up his feelings on his impending release from by the Denver Broncos, likely echoing those of a plethora of orange and blue diehards, in two words.
Denver is poised to release the veteran future Hall of Famer, as first reported by NFL.com reporter Jason LaCanfora, unloading $9 million in salary due this season and more importantly $10 million in cap space.
Bailey told USA Today Sports that he met with general manager John Elway and head coach John Fox earlier Wednesday to learn his fate, which didn’t include an offer to take a pay cut.
The second-highest paid player on the roster last season, behind only Peyton Manning, Bailey would have been due not only his $9 million in salary but also a $1 million roster bonus if he was still with the club on March 15.
Bailey seemed to be taking the news in stride, telling Jones that he “can’t dwell on it” because he knew the Broncos weren’t.
And now, at age 35, Bailey said he looks forward to testing the free agency waters for the first time in his career.
"I'm good. It's bittersweet. Now I get to go see what is out there," Bailey told USA Today Sports. "I'm looking at the positive side of it."
The longest tenured Broncos player, Bailey landed in Denver by way of the Washington Redskins, who traded the budding superstar for another in running back Clinton Portis.
During his decade in Denver, nabbed 34 interceptions, three first-team All-Pro selections, and eight trips to the Pro Bowl.
Bailey ranks in the among the top 10 in Broncos history in several defensive categories, including passes defended, interceptions, defensive touchdowns, tackles and assists.
But 2013 campaign saw Bailey more on the sidelines than on the field.
Plagued by a foot injury suffered in the preseason, Bailey played in just five regular season games, starting just three.
Last season, however, could be a bittersweet one for the veteran, who made his first appearance in a Super Bowl in February, just in time for the Seattle Seahawks to unceremoniously thump the Broncos 43-8.
Bailey said he had no plans to retire, and would consider playing safety if situation was right, though he stressed he’s a “corner at heart.”
The roster move from the Broncos does leave the club in a somewhat vicarious position in terms of its defensive backfield.
Cornerback Chris Harris had surgery last month to repair a torn ACL, which he injured during the AFC Divisional round tilt against the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 12.
With Bailey out for a solid chunk of the season, Harris played opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who himself will become an unrestricted free agent on March 11.