Many more veterans figure to be looking for work soon, and Jason La Canfora of CBS thinks a Denver shocker is among the possibilities:
Champ Bailey, Broncos ($9 million plus $1 million roster bonus): Bailey had a brutal time of it in the postseason, the Broncos have emerging young corners and owner Pat Bowlen has had them operating on a tight budget.
It's hard to imagine the Broncos without Bailey, who along with D.J. Williams is the team's longest tenured member, and prior to Peyton Manning's arrival, was the longtime face of the franchise.
But let's at least consider La Canfora's suggestion, starting with a clarification of his compensation and cap numbers.
Champ was originally due a $9M salary in 2013, but his selection to the Pro Bowl boosted that figure to $9.5M; he's also due a $500K workout bonus and $1M roster bonus, bringing both his cash and cap figures to $11M. That roster bonus is likely due in about a month from now, but the guaranteed portions of Bailey's four-year deal (which he signed almost two years ago) are all behind him.
For Denver, only Manning ($20M) and Elvis Dumervil ($12M) are due to be paid more than Bailey in 2013.
It's a lot of dough for a player set to turn 35 this summer, but aside from his brutal performance against Baltimore in the playoffs (granted, that's when it counts most), Champ showed no signs of decline in 2012.
At this juncture, Champ's 2014 compensation, including salary and bonuses, totals $10.5M, with the potential for more via another Pro Bowl escalator.
After that, he'll again be a free agent.
For years now, there's been talk of the Broncos potentially moving Champ to safety, as often happens with great corners toward the end of their careers (ie. Darrell Green, Rod Woodson).
But cutting him loose, after a fine season? That's tough to picture.
Then again, as La Canfora notes, the team is stacked with young talent (Chris Harris, Tony Carter, Omar Bolden) at the cornerback position, and all at minimum salaries.
Going with that trio and supplementing it via the draft or free agency doesn't seem the wisest of paths, though, what with the limited window of Manning's Denver career. Are John Elway & Co. really going to dump their second best defender while in win-now mode?
Maybe the Broncos really do expect Bolden to step up in a big way in 2013:
Omar’s a competitive, young, tough guy that did a heck of a job on special teams for us this year.
It’s funny, John [Fox] and I were sitting, having breakfast this morning and he dislocated his shoulder (against Baltimore) and was there in case we needed him for the rest of the game but his comment was, ‘I’m coming back next year to take somebody’s job.’ I said, ‘I like that. I like that attitude.’
Hmm. Sounds pretty good - foretelling, even.
But putting their chips in on Bolden for 2013 at the expense of Bailey would likely require a decision within the next month, and that's without benefit of seeing Bolden's potential offseason progress.
Given the team's status as Super Bowl 48 favorite, getting rid of Champ would only be palatable with the acquisition of a suitable replacement.
Seattle doesn't figure to be moving Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner anytime soon.
Of course, there has been talk of one elite corner potentially being on the move this offseason, which brings us back to Darrelle Revis. Only nine days ago, we summarily dismissed the idea of Denver pursuing Revis, but that was under the assumption that Champ would be sticking around.
Swapping in Revis is perhaps the lone possibility that would make cutting Champ a reasonable option, but word out of New Jersey has been that the LOLJets would be seeking a first-round pick and more in return for him. Naturally, Darrelle would also be demanding a new, lucrative contract that would dwarf Bailey's current deal (in terms of guarantees), as his unhappiness with his current deal is what's prompted chatter of the LOLJets considering a trade.
We don't see the Broncos cutting Champ, or trading a first-rounder (plus) for Revis, or giving Revis ~$15M per year on top of that.
The most drastic measure we can envision is Bailey agreeing to a renegotiated contract. After his 2012 performance, though, he has little motivation to accept less compensation in 2013.
Just like Elvis Dumervil, whose situation we discussed earlier today, our money is on Champ staying put, and getting paid what he's currently scheduled to be paid.