UPDATE (2 p.m. ET, March 6): The Denver Broncos officially released Bailey on Thursday afternoon.
The Denver Broncos have told cornerback Champ Bailey he will be released, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Bailey was set to earn $9 million in 2014, with a cap hit of $10 million, as noted by La Canfora. This move was a long time coming, especially after Bailey struggled in the Super Bowl.
Bailey was barely able to get on the field last season, playing only five regular-season games. In those contests, Bailey was limited and unproductive, making only 14 tackles and registering zero interceptions for the first time in his 15-year career.
Bailey is one of the best cornerbacks to ever strap on a helmet. The former University of Georgia standout began his NFL journey with the Washington Redskins after being the seventh overall pick of the 1999 draft. Since then, Bailey has racked up 52 interceptions, with a career-high 10 coming in 2006.
Bailey was traded to Denver in one of the most high-profile deals in NFL history, being dealt for running back Clinton Portis between the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Portis went on to have a good career, becoming the Redskins' all-time leading rusher. Bailey became a perennial Pro Bowl selection, making 12 trips to Hawaii while being named an All-Pro seven times.
However, things came apart in 2013 after slowing down in 2012. Bailey is probably suited for retirement at this point, but he has said multiple times that he wants to play another season.
Contract, Salary Cap and Savings
Bailey signed a four-year, $42.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed before the 2011 season. At the time, the deal made Bailey the highest-paid corner in the NFL and it still ranks him among the top ten in terms of average salary.
In 2014, as La Canfora noted, Bailey was due $10 million including $9 million in base salary. By cutting Bailey, the Broncos save all of that cash with absolutely no dead money counting against them since the guaranteed money is already paid off. Knowshon Moreno, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Shaun Phillips, Wesley Woodyard and Eric Deckerare currently free agents, so Denver needs every dime the team can get.
The Broncos are thin at cornerback. Chris Harris Jr. is the best corner that is under contract, but he tore his ACL during the Divisional round and might not be at full strength to begin the 2014 season.
Rodgers-Cromartie is the best corner on the Broncos, but is hitting the free agent market. Considering how much teams are always looking for corners, his price might be too high for a Denver team looking to bring back a bevy of key players.