Heading into the offseason, cornerbacks were a top priority for the New Orleans Saints, especially after parting ways with veteran Jabari Greer. Instead of waiting until the 2014 NFL Draft to make a move, the weathered Champ Bailey was affixed into Rob Ryan‘s defense to add a knowledgeable and experienced presence to the secondary.
The Saints got a good deal for the old hand that pays out a base amount of $1.75 million in 2014 and $2 million in 2015 for a base value of $3.75 million. He is guaranteed $500,000, a very small fraction of the $9 million the Denver Broncos were supposed to pay him in 2014, but the contract just shows how passionate he is about the game of football.
In order to get that 2014 amount, Bailey must be on the game-day roster for at least six games. With 15 seasons and 12 Pro Bowl appearances under his belt, the tread on his tires is certainly running low, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be effective. Injuries kept him sidelined for a majority of the 2013 season, but Bailey already mentioned that he is feeling much better and more in shape now.
His All-Pro days are behind him, but he still has the ability to make a solid contribution to a great Saints’ defense. His quick feet, ball skills and coverage ability may have downgraded a little bit, but the tools are still there. Just his experience and veteran leadership alone can help mold some of the younger guys into better, more mature football players.
The 36-year-old is projected as the starting cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis, but a healthy, top-notch performance at training camp will be needed to make that projection a reality. There are several other younger guys who are hungry for playing time. Corey White and Patrick Robinson will be his main competition, with a little bit of rookie Stanley Jean-Baptiste on the side. However, if all goes well, Bailey’s cultivated background should lock him up as a Week 1 starter.
Survival is the name of the game come playoff time, and Bailey’s experience could keep the Black and Gold alive. Of course, making it through camp and the regular season are the first two steps, so it will be exciting to see if and how the old-timer can improve one of the best rosters the team has ever seen.