Broncos to Release Champ Bailey: A Fit for the Patriots?

Kevin C. Cox

Champ Bailey, one of Bill Belichick's favorite players, is about to become a free agent. Do the Patriots pursue him?

In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the Denver Broncos are planning to release Champ Bailey in the near future. He'll be 36 at the start of next season, spent much of this last year either hurt or getting burned by younger, faster receivers, and was due $9 million in 2014. The move makes all the sense in the world, and one that I'm sure both sides saw coming some time ago.

I initially didn't think much of it, but in the last 30 minutes I must have gotten 10 texts asking me if the Patriots are going to sign Bailey. We all know how much Bill Belichick loves him some aging veterans, and Bailey is one of those players that coach can't seem to gush about enough, so to a degree I understand the excitement. But I really don't know if I see New England making a move for a player that has proven last year that he can be both an injury risk and a liability.

But, this is the Patriots we're talking about here, and so you never really know. The real question is, what value can Bailey bring to the team?

As a defensive back, Bailey is done. His body is starting to break down, he can't keep up with the faster guys anymore, and he no longer has that shut down ability that he once had. This isn't a knock on Champ by any means; he's one of the greatest DBs of all time and a surefire Hall of Famer. Time catches up with everyone, and that's just the way it is. However, if Bailey is looking to play for one more season and more than willing to sign cheap for a championship contender, he represents an intriguing option at safety. New England now finds themselves somewhat thin at the position with the recent release of Steve Gregory, and his replacements Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson are relatively untested. Bailey may still have enough in the tank to play safety, as it doesn't require sticking tight to a receiver for an extended period and he will be able to play with most of the field in front of him. Safety is also one of the few positions in football where cerebral play and high football intelligence can compensate for waning physical skills; it goes without saying that Champ is one of the best at reading offenses and would make for a tremendous mentor for the younger players. He's absolutely a character guy and a positive locker room presence, and when it comes to veteran leadership there are few out there who know more about defense than Bailey does.

Ultimately, I think retirement is the best option for Bailey, but I know that getting as close as he did to finally getting a Super Bowl ring only to come up embarrassingly short can't be sitting well with him. If he wants to come to a contender for very little money and doesn't mind shifting to safety, the Patriots could do a lot worse.

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