Horse Tracks: Where will Champ end up?

Justin Edmonds

With the Broncos set to release 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, the question of where Bailey will end up is now one of the hottest in the NFL landscape.

Champ Bailey's potential suitors

Champ Bailey has said he has no plans to retire, and even admits a switch to safety is possible. It makes you wonder why the Broncos and John Elway are so quick on releasing the 10-year Bronco, but we'll have more on that later.

That brings us to the question of "Where will Champ Bailey end up?" Will he be a hot free agent at this stage in his career? After Adam Schefter tweeted it, many are jumping on the Champ-homecoming-to-Georgia bandwagon. The Falcons have room at either cornerback or safety according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There's a possibility.

Another possibility is the Patriots. Bill Belichick gave Bailey effusive praise in 2012, showing he's a big fan of Champ, and he's had remarkable success signing defensive backs late in their careers in the past.

"To me, he's one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody. He matches up against the Andre Johnsons of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. Then he'll match up against quick, real good route running, quick receivers, guys like that, too. [It] doesn�t really make any difference. You can watch him match up against whoever they want to put him on, whether it's Mike Wallace or whether it's Calvin Johnson, through the years; I'm not just talking about this year.

"At times, he's been on tight ends, like when he would be on (Tony) Gonzalez back in the day and things like that. So, I think he's really capable of being physical and standing in there and banging with the big guys. He's got enough quickness and length with the little guys to match their quickness and give them a problem and stay with them, or if he gets his hands on them and jams them, he can destroy the route right off the bat.

"He's a very instinctive player, so he has a good sense of what the guy is trying to do and what their tendencies are and things like that. He's on a lot of routes just because he's experienced and he's smart. I think he can cover, I'd say there aren't too many corners in the league, it would be hard to think of who the next one would be, who like him could match up as well against any type of receiver."

Speaking of homecomings, another option might be the Washington Redskins, who originally traded Bailey to the Broncos for Clinton Portis in one of the NFL's last blockbuster player-for-player trades. Our friends at Hogs Haven break that down.

Other options might include the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders, Rant Sports speculates, but really, every team in the NFL seems like a possibility. Every team but one - the Broncos.

Wherever he goes, the Denver Post suggests Bailey will be a "first ballot" Broncos Ring of Famer five years after he retires, and we agree.

Broncos

Denver Broncos to release veteran cornerback Champ Bailey - ESPN
Bailey played 10 seasons for the Broncos since the 2004 trade that brought him from the Redskins for running back Clinton Portis. He was drafted by the Redskins with the seventh overall pick of the 1999 draft and has totaled 52 career interceptions, including a career-high 10 in 2006.

The Money Pit
Rodgers-Cromartie signed what amounted to a one-year, $5 million deal last offseason; this year, he should receive three times that much in guaranteed money. Not only will he get paid, but this year’s version of Rodgers-Cromartie — somebody like Sam Shields — should get a multiyear deal with a significant guarantee, too. Everybody wants to play for a winner, but it’s difficult to pass up the financial security of a long-term deal.

Broncos seek free agents, including top-flight pass rusher - The Denver Post
Once again, John Elway can change the Broncos' momentum. Not with his arm or legs, as he used to, but through his offseason transactions as the Broncos' general manager.

Denver could be hoping Decker gets big offer elsewhere | ProFootballTalk
With free agency fast approaching, the Denver Broncos face the potential departure of one of their starting receivers. And the Broncos may not be all that upset about it happening. Eric Decker, a third-round pick in 2010, hits the market on March 11.

JVM: Cornerbacks | ProFootballFocus.com
3. Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos Harris was having a fantastic 2013 up until he tore his ACL in the AFC divisional playoff game. In 2012 he took over for Champ Bailey as Denver’s most solid corner and in 2013 he solidified that stance. Our 9th rated cornerback, he allowed only a 64.9 QB rating when thrown at in the regular season. Harris also performed equally as well in the slot allowing only one reception for every 11 snaps in coverage. With Harris most likely receiving a restricted free agent tender, he will be a financial steal again next year.

D'Qwell Jackson to pick Broncos, Titans, 'Fins or Colts? - NFL.com
UPDATE: Jackson's tour will end at Indianapolis. According to The Miami Herald, the linebacker plans to choose from among the Titans, Broncos, Dolphins and Colts for his next team.

NFL free agency is about being cautions of risks and red flags | The MMQB with Peter King
The ballooning cap is particularly a blessing to the Role Flag guys. Eric Decker is one. He’s unequivocally a No. 2 receiver who put up big numbers by playing in a Peyton Manning-led offense. If he were anything but "just a guy," the Broncos would retain him. After all, they have almost $20 million in cap space and, with Manning nearing his end, their window is now. Other Role Flag guys include Decker’s former teammate Knowshon Moreno and Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate.

2014 NFL Free Agency Primer: O-line headlines by Eugene Monroe, Alex Mack | Audibles - SI.com
2. Zane Beadles A Pro Bowler in 2012, Beadles slipped a bit last season. His pass-protection abilities still pair well with what the Broncos did under Peyton Manning, so he may be best off simply staying put. That said, should the 27-year-old four-year starter venture out into free agency, he would find several teams interested.

2014 NFL Free Agency Primer: Eric Decker, Jermichael Finley among WRs, TEs | Audibles - SI.com
1. Eric Decker Decker had his most productive season in 2013 as a key part of Peyton Manning’s historic campaign. Not only is he a tough receiver over the middle with a full command of route concepts; he’s also faster in space than some may realize, as evidenced by his 14.8 yards per reception average. Now, the question is what kind of money Decker will be offered on the open market, and how much he’s seen as a product of Manning’s brilliance.

Free Agent Photos: Linebackers - DenverBroncos.com
View photos of some of the top free-agent linebackers. Photos by AP.

Free Agency Outlook: Linebackers - DenverBroncos.com
Independent analyst Andrew Mason takes a look at the top linebackers set to enter the free agent market.

NFL

Nine biggest wild cards in free agency - NFL.com
DRC is just as temperamental as you'd expect from a guy who openly considered retirement at 28. His career has already run the gamut. He looked like a potential top-five cornerback in Arizona, then was dealt after a disappointing year and completely washed out in Philadelphia. He was back to being a great starter last season. Rodgers-Cromartie seems made for a short-term deal because you never know what you are going to get.

Devin Hester says he won't be back with Chicago Bears next season - ESPN Chicago
Record-setting returner Devin Hester said Wednesday he will not be back with the Chicago Bears next season.

Analysis: Hester to leave after 8 seasons - Chicago Bears Blog - ESPN Chicago
The Chicago Bears’ decision to move on without Devin Hester is not a surprise. There were no indications that general manager Phil Emery had g

2014 NFL free agency primer: Michael Johnson, Henry Melton highlight defensive line | Audibles - SI.com
2. Michael Bennett "There is no such thing as discount," Bennett said last month when asked if he’d give the Seahawks a break in negotiations. "This is not Costco, this is not Walmart — this is real life."

Harvard professor urges NFL to fund medical marijuana studies for CTE treatment | ProFootballTalk
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league would consider allowing players to use medical marijuana if the medicine supports its potential benefits, especially as it relates to concussion treatment.

San Diego must rebuild its defense to get back to the playoffs. | SportsonEarth.com : Mike Tanier Article
The Chargers showed up to the playoffs uninvited, then made themselves at home by winning a game. It was a remarkable run, but also a mysterious one. One thing is certain: Their defense was one of the worst in the NFL, and it needs serious upgrades.

New England Patriots 2014 offseason preview - CBSSports.com
With the 2013 season officially in the books the Eye on Football staff is looking ahead to the offseason for all 32 NFL teams. Next up: the New England Patriots.

Run Stop Rates 2013 | FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS
Football Outsiders is the internet home for Innovative Statistics and Intelligent Analysis of professional and college football. Our writers, lead by Aaron Schatz, also write Pro Football Prospectus.

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