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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Champ Bailey cements legacy in Denver

By Bill Williamson

INDIANAPOLIS -- I have landed in Indianapolis for the NFL combine and I wanted to further address the Champ Bailey signing after discussing his contract extension with Denver and some other folks around the league.

Bailey
Bailey
Bailey signed a four-year deal that ESPN’s John Clayton has reported will pay him a guaranteed $22 million and could pay him between $43 million and 47 million over the course of the four years. But it is clear the deal will be reevaluated after the first two years. Bailey -- who is still considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL -- will turn 33 in June.

There is some surprise from around the league that Bailey didn’t wait until he could see what he could get on the open market. Many people say it is a direct indication of Bailey’s loyalty to Denver and his preference to stay where he is comfortable rather than seeing what a contending team would offer.

Denver, which is going in a new direction for the second time in two years, is not close to being a legitimate contender. It was 4-12 last season and it is rebuilding. Still, Bailey decided to stay in Denver before free agency even started.

A few years ago, when I was working on a story on whether or not Bailey would be a Pro Football Hall of Fame selection, he told me his key to Canton would be to win a Super Bowl ring. He thinks that is the best way of getting into the Hall of Fame. Bailey has to know Denver is not close to being a Super Bowl team, so staying in Denver must mean that much to him.

There is a chance Bailey will end his career elsewhere. I could see him and the Broncos parting ways after the 2012 season under some circumstances. But the point is, Bailey will always be remembered as a Bronco. He is entering his eighth season in Denver after the blockbuster 2004 trade with the Washington Redskins that sent Bailey and a second-round pick (running back Tatum Bell) to Denver for running back Clinton Portis. Portis has had a nice career with the Redskins, but Bailey is a premier player.

He has long been Denver’s best player and he is the face of the franchise. Bailey is truly one of the better players in team history. He will definitely go into the team’s Ring of Fame along with the likes of Hall of Famers John Elway, Floyd Little, Gary Zimmerman and Shannon Sharpe.

By signing this deal, Bailey has cemented his legacy in Denver. He could have jumped ship in search of a quick-fix championship. Instead, he has committed to finishing what he started in Denver seven years ago.