NOVEMBER 14: Bailey will sign a one-day contract with Denver and retire as a Bronco on Tuesday, according to the team’s VP of public relations Patrick Smyth, who tweets that there will be an afternoon press conference to make the announcement.
OCTOBER 28: Despite receiving interest from NFL teams, veteran cornerback Champ Bailey has decided to end his playing career, according to agent Jack Reale (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). Bailey, who last spent time with the Saints, “has some outstanding opportunities that he’s going to pursue” now that he’s retiring from the NFL, says Reale (Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun).
Bailey, who turned 36 this summer, appeared in just five regular season games in 2013 due to a foot injury, and his exorbitant cap hit made him a cap casualty for the AFC champion Broncos. In his last healthy season (2012), Bailey grabbed a pair of interceptions and racked up 66 tackles. His combination of positive grades against the run and in pass coverage resulted in a top-10 rank at cornerback in ’12, according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required).
However, even after signing a deal with the Saints that included $500K in guaranteed money, Bailey was unable to secure a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. The 12-time Pro Bowler had indicated he’d be willing to play safety in addition to or instead of cornerback, but that may not have been a smooth transition at age 36, and he’s not a special-teams contributor, so New Orleans opted for more versatile options instead.
While he didn’t start the season on a roster, Bailey had been receiving interest in recent weeks. Per Schefter (via Twitter), Reale indicated that at least two playoff contenders were eyeing his client, and one of those was likely the Ravens, whose interest we heard about a couple weeks ago. Perhaps the other club was the Lions, who worked out Bailey back in September.
Assuming Bailey doesn’t come out of retirement at any point and has indeed played his last NFL snap, it should just be a matter of time until he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame. In addition to his 12 Pro Bowl berths, Bailey racked up 52 interceptions during a 15-year career that saw him spend five seasons in Washington and 10 in Denver. His most impressive stretch came with the Broncos in 2005 and 2006, when he grabbed 18 total INTs in two seasons, returning three of them for touchdowns.
Bailey will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 2019.