The curious case of Champ Bailey

Credit: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports

Decisions, decisions and more decisions face the Denver Broncos and their front office.

Yet, the biggest challenge for Denver is what to do with future Hall-of-Famer Champ Bailey.

Bailey is a shell of his former self. He struggled with a foot injury all of last season. He came back and played in the playoffs and even started at outside cornerback during the AFC Championship and Super Bowl.

During the Super Bowl especially, Bailey did not look good. He was burned several times by the speed of the Seattle Seahawks, much like the rest of the Broncos. Bailey looked old and getting close to washed up.

The Broncos can not pay Bailey the $10 million he is due next season. As hard as it is to say, Bailey is just not that player anymore. The Broncos know it. The fans know it. But the real question is: Does Bailey know it?

The cornerback still wants to play football and still believes he can contribute. During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, he said he felt the healthiest he has all season.
Despite what Bailey thinks, the Broncos have to think about business and make the move that best suits the team. Here are three options the Broncos should consider.


Bailey takes pay cut, plays nickel

This would be the best option for Bailey. He could still play cornerback, which he wants to do. It would also give the Broncos some salary relief to go out and sign some help for the defense.

The money freed up could help Denver sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He should be the top priority for the Broncos but could command a big salary to be the team’s shutdown, No. 1 corner.

If Bailey does move to nickel, the Broncos have to feel comfortable with their guys on the outside. Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris Jr. would work at those positions, but DRC is a free agent and Harris is coming off an ACL injury.


Bailey takes pay cut, plays safety

Bailey has not been real keen on moving to safety but it may be his only chance to stay in Denver. Safety is a position in flux for the Broncos going into next season. Rahim Moore is coming back from his strange leg injury. Duke Ihenacho was the star early and then fell off. Mike Adams is a free agent and Quinton Carter can’t get on the field because of injuries.

The only problem with Bailey moving to safety is his size. Bailey can tackle but isn’t known as big hitter. He is listed at 192 pounds on If he teamed with Moore in the defensive backfield, it would create a small group of safeties as Moore is also under 200 pounds.
Bailey could still cover receivers he would be matched up with at safety. That wouldn’t be a problem. It is just getting Bailey on board with the switch.


Cut Bailey from the roster

As much heat as Bailey has gotten in the last couple years for his play slowing down, cutting him just seems crazy. But this has to be an option the Broncos consider.

If Bailey doesn’t want to take a pay cut or move positions, the Broncos will have no other choice. It will be another Elvis Dumervil situation where Denver just can’t pay the salary they have right now.

Bailey is a great Bronco and will probably go into the Ring of Fame at Sports Authority Field. It is always said the NFL is business and having to cut Bailey will be a pure business decision.

If it comes to this, Bailey will probably find work somewhere else but have a diminished role. The right move is for Bailey to stay in Denver and admit he is not the player he once was.

Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.

Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke

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