The Denver Broncos were going to have to make some very difficult decisions when it came to their free agent targets. They had just about $6 million available in cap space with players like Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all about to hit the free agent market.
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
Champ Bailey would have counted against the salary cap for $10 million in 2014, so the move is a great one for Denver as they attempt to make a return to the Super Bowl. Bailey has been one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL since he was drafted seventh overall by the Washington Redskins in 1999 out of the University of Georgia. He was traded to the Broncos in 2004, along with a second-round draft pick for running back Clinton Portis.
Bailey’s 52 career interceptions ranks him 26th, just one behind Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. He had picked off at least one pass in every one of his 16 seasons until 2013 when he struggled to find the field making only five appearances. He had stated that he is not ready to retire and will test the free agency market for the first time in his career.
However, the biggest question out there will be what the market will look like for Bailey. General managers and head coaches are being tempted to look into taller cornerbacks, or even converted wide receivers, to play the position with the success of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner for the Seattle Seahawks. Tall and fast is the direction where the league is going and while Bailey is a good height for a corner at 6-foot, he does not have the speed that he once had now at age 35.
One of the more likely places that he could end up at would be the Oakland Raiders, who are in need of leadership on the defensive side of the ball and have loads of cap room to work with. The Raiders are currently sitting at about $64 million in cap space with 52 players under contract; only five of those players are over the age of 30.
Oakland’s cornerback situation is pretty slim right now, as starters Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter are both unrestricted free agents, leaving the Raiders with five corners on their rosters with a combined 10 years of NFL experience. Taiwan Jones has the most experience at four years, but he is a converted running back.
Another rumored destination for the 12-time Pro Bowler is back in his home state of Georgia with the Atlanta Falcons. However, that does not seem likely without Bailey taking a pretty significant pay cut, as the Falcons sit at about $16.5 million available cap space with 53 players under contract.