Champ Bailey, arguably the best defensive player in Broncos history, is moving on. Bailey, who earned eight of his record 12 Pro Bowl selections with the Broncos, met Wednesday with general manager John Elway and coach John Fox at the team's headquarters.
The possibility of reworking the final $10 million salary on Bailey's contract was not presented as an option.
“There were no discussions about it,” Bailey said Wednesday night. “It was like, 'We're ready to move on.' That was that.”
Was Bailey stunned the Broncos didn't make an attempt to bring him back for an 11th season at a pay cut?
“I wouldn't say stunned,” he said. “A little surprising, but not really. After all this time, it's tough when it ends. But at the same time, 10-plus years anywhere, that's pretty good.”
Bailey, 35, wants to keep playing, so the Broncos will release their left cornerback, most likely before free agency opens Tuesday.
“Champ, you taught me a lot!” tweeted Broncos weakside linebacker Danny Trevathan. “It's been an honor and a privilege.”
As recently as the 2012 season, Bailey was playing at a high level, earning his 12th Pro Bowl berth, which set an NFL record among defensive backs.
But Bailey had a tough game against the Baltimore Ravens and receiver Torrey Smith in a second-round playoff loss that ended the Broncos' 2012 season.
Bailey's 2013 season was the most frustrating of his 15-year career as he suffered a severely sprained Lisfranc ligament in the bottom of his left foot during an Aug. 17 preseason game at Seattle.
Bailey missed the first five games, was ineffective upon his return in Game 6 against Jacksonville and receiver Justin Blackmon, then aggravated the injury in Game 7 at Indianapolis.
In all, Bailey missed 11 of the first 14 games because of the foot injury, then returned to play a reduced nickel-back role for the next three games, including a playoff win against San Diego.
There was some thought Bailey's difficult season was more the result of injury than declining performance because of age.
“That's how I feel about it,” Bailey said. “It doesn't help you to get hurt, no matter how old you are.”
Bailey was scheduled to draw a $1 million roster bonus plus a $9 million salary in 2014, the final year of his contract.
He will turn 36 in June, and there haven't been many NFL cornerbacks who have ever played at that age. The Broncos would not confirm Wednesday night that a final decision has made regarding Bailey.
But Bailey knows their decision.
“I'm going to still play, absolutely,” Bailey said. “I'm looking forward to it.”
A rare multithreat star at the University of Georgia, where he was a receiver, returner and defensive back, Bailey became the No. 7 overall selection of the Washington Redskins in the 1999 draft.
A starter as a rookie and a Pro Bowler in each of his next four seasons, Bailey was dealt to the Broncos in 2004 in a blockbuster trade that sent running back Clinton Portis to Washington.
The Broncos also received a second-round draft pick in the trade that was used to select running back Tatum Bell.
Bailey received a seven-year, $63 million contract upon completion of the trade. After playing out that deal, Bailey in 2011 received a four-year, $43 million extension. Bailey drew $33 million in the next three years meaning the Broncos paid him $96 million over 10 years.
They will not pay him for an 11th year. However, five years after Bailey does decide to retire, the Broncos are expected to induct him into their Ring of Fame.
“It's a little bittersweet,” Bailey said. “I'm excited. At the same time I'm a little disappointed it has to end here. Nothing to cry about. Let's move on.”</form>