In case you missed our coverage Friday, over the weekend, or on Monday, the New Orleans Saints and free agent cornerback Champ Bailey agreed to a two-year/$7 million contract. The 12-time Pro Bowl DB and likely future Hall of Famer is 35-years old – the same age as one Drew Brees.
Much could be said about Bailey’s past accomplishments in the NFL. Each and every one of them is impressive. Of course the one primary missing piece on his career resume is a Super Bowl title. Last season in Denver, Bailey appeared in his first Super Bowl (though I’m sure he’d just assume forget about that particular game).
As he said Friday after signing, “(The Saints) are very close to a championship. You look at Coach Payton took a year off, came back and they got in the playoffs, and won a game.”
Speaking of Payton and Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, Bailey had this to say: “They want to win. They’re two coaches that are very competitive…We’re all on the same page, and we all have the same goal in mind and that’s to win a championship.”
Make no mistake, Bailey came to New Orleans to win a Super Bowl. That’s the hope and dream of every Saints player, executive and coach, as well as the millions of fans spread out throughout the Gulf South and over all of Who Dat Nation.
That mindset is invaluable, and unquestionable. I don’t think anyone doubts Bailey’s motivations for signing with the Saints. What is questioned is whether Bailey has anything to offer in that regard. Can he still play at a level that can help a team win a Super Bowl?
Last season the Georgia Bulldog played in only five regular season games, nursing a nagging ankle injury which just never seemed to heal. He did, however, start all three postseason games for the Broncos.
It was probably his worst season in his NFL career. In fact, compared to the Saints’ starting corners who finished the 2013 season, Bailey was very pedestrian.
When targeted in 2013: Champ Bailey – 97.7 QB rating, KeenanLewis- 67.4, Corey White – 89.4
— New Orleans Saints (@spot_saints) April 4, 2014
Okay, so Bailey wasn’t that much worse than Corey White, but it appears White was at least better. The completion percentage against him was even more stunning, in terms of how much better White performed last season in comparison to Bailey.
When targeted in 2013: Champ Bailey – 64% completion percentage, Keenan Lewis – 55.9%, Corey White – 56.1%
— New Orleans Saints (@spot_saints) April 4, 2014
The question from all this should be, What does any of this prove?
It proves Bailey had a poor 2013 season, which he himself said was at least partially due to his health. He now believes he’s fully healthy.
It may also prove that Bailey is better off playing a hybrid spot, where he rotates around the field, a la Charles Woodson his last few years in Green Bay. By all accounts Bailey is open to such a role in New Orleans under Ryan.
“I’ll get in where I fit in, but we’re all working to do the same thing, and that’s play a lot. I think we all want to play a lot, we all want to be the guy that’s going to make our team better.”
Again, this is all quite commendable. Bailey has said all the right things, as have the Saints. What’s still debatable though, is whether Bailey can actually play a role that doesn’t spotlight him as a star and focal point of the defense.
Even if Bailey starts at the corner spot opposite Lewis, he won’t be the focal point of the secondary or the defense. At best, he’ll be the fourth most important, and best, player in the secondary.
Can a future Hall of Famer handle that role? There’s little reason to believe a veteran who simply wants to win a championship cannot. Bailey seems to be a fairly ego-less star.
In reality, however, he’ll actually be a sub defender making more money than someone starting ahead of him. Which, at least economically, doesn’t make much sense. The Saints could have probably brought back Jabari Greer for the same price, if not cheaper, and he still may have been able to start in 2014.
Then there’s this little factoid: Bailey is likely to fill a hybrid safety-nickel-corner role, yet he has only three sacks in his entire NFL career. And we know Ryan loves to blitz his nickel defensive backs.
That can easily be explained away by the fact that in the past blitzing Bailey would have been a waste of his talent, and likely put his defense in bad spots. Still, over the course of a decade and a half you’d expect Bailey to record more than just three sacks.
It doesn’t prove anything inherently. But it means that Bailey is probably better suited as an outside corner, though that role probably doesn’t fit the Saints’ defensive needs. We shall see, though.
Maybe Bailey can transition to a hybrid role the way Woodson did late in his career in Green Bay. But Woodson made that move a little earlier. Bailey has only ever played the corner spot in his career. He is an old dog who might have to learn new tricks.
By all accounts, he’s willing. But willingness isn’t always the best way to determine future success.
Past results are the way to determine future success. If true with Bailey, the future will not be pretty.
Two years and $7 million is a huge risk for an organization looking to win right now.