One couldn't help but wonder whether Champ Bailey would have retired with a Broncos victory on Sunday night.
Well, he doesn't yet have the opportunity to walk away on top ala John Elway.
Of course, the next questions are whether he'll be back with the Broncos in 2014, and if so, where he'll be playing, and for how much money.
The league year starts five weeks from Tuesday, and Bailey is due a $1M roster bonus, $9M salary, and by higher math, a total of $10M in compensation.
For months now - especially with his injury-ravaged season - it's seemed obvious that Champ would not be back at those figures.
It's just too much money to promise an aging, rapidly declining star, with so many younger guys to be taken care of.
Bailey, who will turn 36 in June, once hinted that he'd be willing to move to safety at the end of his current contract, but then backtracked from that this season.
On Sunday night, the future HOFer says he wants to keep playing...
I'm not done playing football. So I feel like I'm going to give myself another shot next year.
...and that he's willing to consider a move to safety...
If it makes sense. It's something I'd definitely look into.
The harsh and difficult questions that must follow are these:
- What is Champ worth to Denver, given their current roster and cap situation, and what position?
- If he's a safety, is there room for him, Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, and whoever else is added to the mix there?
- Will the Broncos promise Bailey a starting job with any guaranteed money whatsoever?
- If not, is he willing to take a big cut and compete for a job, whether outside, inside, or on the back end?
There's no room for sentimentality in roster decisions. Bailey has been a great Bronco, one of the very best.
But he's also about to turn 36, and although he performed well against New England in the conference championship (+2.6 according to PFF), he was equally poor against Seattle (-2.6), allowing three receptions on four targets for 49 yards and a 115.6 QB rating against.
In each of Denver's past two postseason defeats, Champ was the team's lowest graded defender.
To be fair, he was excellent in 2012, and in 2013, he returned from an injury so serious he feared his season and/or career was/were over. The Champ we saw last night is not necessarily what we would see in 2014.
The Broncos have five weeks to make a decision on Bailey, at least as far as his roster bonus goes. They could always cut him at that point and bring him back on an incentive-laden one-year deal, or just renegotiate before then.
Let's hope Champ hasn't played his last game as a Bronco.
But know that he very well might have.