The Denver Broncos released cornerback Champ Bailey on Wednesday, according to reports. It's a huge move, given that Bailey has been one of the best cornerbacks to ever play the game, but his contract was too sizable for what he contributes at this point in his career.
Bailey was set to earn $9 million in 2014, with a cap hit of $10 million. By releasing him, the Broncos will save all of that money, given that the portion of his contract that is guaranteed has already been paid to him. His contract was sizable -- four years for $42.5 million, signed back in 2011. At the time, he was the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
Unfortunately, Bailey dealt with significant injuries over the past couple seasons and struggled to get onto the field in 2013. The Broncos struggled mightily defending the pass, and Bailey did little to help them in that vein. But he has little to prove at this point, given that he's made it to 12 Pro Bowls and has been named an All-Pro seven times.
Bailey has been adamant that he wants to play in 2014, but it won't be for the Broncos unless they work out some kind of deal to bring him back at an extremely reduced rate. He's not going to make $9 million in base salary anywhere this season, that's for sure. It sounds more likely that he's going to call it a career rather than move somewhere to get another year in, but anything can happen at this point.
Here's what else you might have missed from the NFL on Wednesday:
The St. Louis Rams have parted ways with cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The veteran corner announced the news himself on Twitter Wednesday, thanking the team and the coach for his time with there. He spent the past two seasons with the team, but has under-performed significantly. Finnegan was a top-flight cornerback when he joined the Rams, but he struggled throughout the 2012 season. He was supposed to be the top cornerback alongside Janoris Jenkins, but the unit has now shown much improvement over the years. Most figured he would bounce back in 2013, but injuries derailed much of his season.
His release does leave $6 million in dead money, but there's an additional $4 million in cap space to be used next season. That said, he could end up coming back on a cheaper contract, as noted at Turf Show Times:
This may not be the end of Finnegan's time with the Rams. Fisher left the door open for a possible return, but on a cheaper contract. Injuries kept Finnegan off the field for a big part of the 2013 season. Worse, he slowed down as age started to catch up to him ... after the Rams signed him to a five-year, $50 million deal. If he did return, his role would be limited to nickel duties, where he struggled last season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers locked up both tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu through the 2016 season. That means they've got new three-year deals. This is great because it guarantees two of the team's top veterans will remain in town for the future and it should be saving the team some money in 2014. Pittsburgh is already over the projected salary cap, but should save several million in space with the deals, though it's unclear how much.
Long-time Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester confirmed on Wednesday that the team would be going in a different direction in 2014. In a note on his Facebook page, Hester thanked the Bears and fans for all of their support and said that, while he wanted to retire in Chicago, things didn't always work out as planned. Hester isn't being released, as he's about to become a free agent at the start of the new league year, having just finished a four-year, $22 million contract. Hester has been contemplating retirement but it sounds like he's going to try and find a new team this offseason.
Cornerback Brandon Browner was reinstated by the NFL on Tuesday, but one report suggests he will still serve a suspension to start the 2014 season. It sounds like that was part of the agreement with the NFL to get him reinstated. He was previously given an indefinite suspension by the NFL, and it was somewhat surprising that he was reinstated Tuesday. He's going to hit the free agent market at the start of the new league year. It's unclear how long the suspension will be for, however.
Contrary to recent reports, the Philadelphia Eagles don't appear interested in trading or releasing wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson has been a very productive receiver with the team so the possibility of him being elsewhere in 2014 was surprising. He's got a high cap hit and everything like that, but the news just didn't make sense.
The Buffalo Bills extended safety Aaron Williams on Wednesday. The team announced the four-year contract extension that will pay him $26 million with another $1.25 million in incentives, and $14.625 million guaranteed. He's now going to be under contract through the 2018 season. It's significant given that the Bills are still trying to work through a deal with Jairus Byrd, a fellow safety. Over at Buffalo Rumblings, they like the move, but are somewhat skeptical:
Williams, who will turn 24 next month, is coming off a career year after switching from cornerback to safety. Though he did spend the early part of the 2013 season playing cornerback due to injury, Williams' transition was smooth, and he accumulated 82 tackles, four interceptions, 11 defended passes and a forced fumble on the season.
The move locks up half of a very good safety duo for the foreseeable future, though when Byrd leaves for greener pastures, the team will be back in the hunt for a running mate for Williams. This also seems like a fairly hefty deal to give to a player that has missed at least two games (14 in total over three seasons) due to injury.
The New York Jets took steps to solidify the cornerback position on Wednesday. The team re-signed both Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster to deals, and claimed Johnny Patrick off of waivers. Patrick is the biggest name there, and was released by the Saints on Tuesday. Patrick was considered a high-ceiling guy coming into the NFL but under-performed with the Saints.
The Cleveland Browns released wide receiver Davone Bess on Wednesday. Bess' base salary was guaranteed for 2014, but he had multiple off-the-field issues in 2013 and missed practice time and multiple games because of them. That could allow the Browns to void part or all of his 2014 salary. It's unclear if Bess has a future in the NFL at this point.
Free agent linebacker Jameel McClain will reportedly meet with the Giants. McClain was released by the Baltimore Ravens for salary cap reasons, and also met with the Buffalo Bills recently. McClain has been a starter with the Ravens since 2010 and was with them when they won the Super Bowl in 2012. He does have some injury concerns, but has been a very solid starter, and the Giants are in constant pursuit of help when it comes to linebackers.