Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey (24) takes a knee against
the Seattle Seahawks during the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII
football game at MetLife Stadium Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in
East Rutherford, N.J. The Seahawks won 43-8.
DENVER — Champ
Bailey didn't get that Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos.
perennial Pro Bowler may have to go elsewhere for another chance.
The Broncos are
expected to release Bailey, a person familiar with the situation
told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. The person spoke on
condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.
By letting go of
Bailey, the Broncos would open up cap space, with the 12-time Pro
Bowl player scheduled to make around $10 million next season.
This was a trying
15th season for Bailey, one in which he missed 11 games because of
a nagging left foot sprain that he originally hurt in the
preseason on Aug. 17 in Seattle. The 35-year-old corner returned
late in the season to help the Broncos advance to the Super Bowl,
where they lost 43-8 to the Seattle Seahawks last month.
Bailey has been
so dependable on the outside for Denver since his arrival in 2004,
when the Washington Redskins dealt him for running back Clinton
Portis. Bailey has been among that rare group of elite cornerbacks
that quarterbacks thought twice about challenging him.
With good reason,
too. Bailey leads all cornerbacks with 52 interceptions since he
broke into the league as a rookie in 1999.
As the years have
passed, QBs started testing him more and more. That was evident in
the playoff game against Baltimore after the 2012 season, when
Bailey got burned twice for long touchdowns.
performance came the inevitable whispers that maybe it was time
for him to move to safety or even to the slot position.
wasn't ready for that kind of move. Not yet anyway.
After his foot
injury, though, Bailey really had no choice but to move inside,
playing well, too, as he earned his first trip to the Super Bowl.
Bailey came close
to a Super Bowl with Denver during the 2005 season as well. He
even had one of his more memorable moments in the division playoff
game that year, when he intercepted Tom Brady and returned it 100
yards down the sideline. He got chased down a yard short of the
touchdown. But it was a game-changing play and the Broncos won.
They had home-field advantage the next week, only to lose to
Manning was the undisputed leader of the offense, Bailey held a
similar role on the defensive side. He always took the younger
cornerbacks under his wing, too, teaching them little tricks and
grooming them to possibly take over one day.
Upon hearing the
news of Bailey's impending release, Broncos cornerback Chris
Harris posted on his Twitter account: "Blessed to be able
lineup opposite Champ and learn from a Great. Will def be
Harris wasn't the
only Denver defensive back turning to Twitter to give a shout-out
to Bailey. David Bruton posted: "5 years with Champ! Can't
believe 1 of the greatest is no longer here. Learned more than u
can imagine from him. More than a teammate 4 sure."
With free agency
on the horizon, the Broncos have some work to do in the defensive
backfield. It could start with working out a deal with Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie, who's set to become a free agent after a solid
first season in Denver.
Record-setting returner Devin Hester said Wednesday he will not be
back with the Chicago Bears next season.
knowledge, I know that Chicago wants to go a different route with
me," Hester told the NFL Network. "All I can say is
thanks to the fans for their support. They've always been great to
me. Always been loyal. I couldn't have played for a better city
than those guys. At the end of my career, I do want to retire as a
member of the Bears."
He added the
Bears are "parting ways" with him. The team declined
It looks as if
Hester will hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent
after an eight-year run with the Bears that produced no shortage
He matched Hall
of Famer Deion Sanders' NFL record with his 19th return for a
touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard
punt return at Washington in October. It was Hester's 13th punt
return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.
He has also
returned five kickoffs and one missed field goal for touchdowns.
A three-time Pro
Bowl pick, Hester is best remembered by Bears fans for returning
the opening kickoff in the 2007 Super Bowl for a touchdown. He ran
it back 92 yards for a score in a game the Bears went on to lose
several lulls on returns during his career, particularly when the
Bears tried to make him a receiver. But he showed some of his old
form while focusing solely on returns last season.
return against Washington was his first in nearly two years.
Hester led the NFL with a career-high 1,436 kick return yards on a
league-high 52 tries, and he returned five kickoffs for a
team-record 249 yards against Minnesota in September.
Now, it looks
like he's moving on.
interest in reuniting with former coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay.
"I look at
Lovie as my number one coach right now because he's the one that
took a chance on me coming out of the draft," Hester said.
"He has all my respect so if he's a guy that is going to
shoot at me and want me to come play with him again, my arms are
The news from
Hester comes on the same day the Bears terminated the contract of
punter Adam Podlesh and signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
to a two-year deal.
A four-time Pro
Bowl pick, Ratliff started four of the five games he played in
after signing with Chicago in November. He spent the first six
weeks with Dallas on the physically unable to perform list before
being released in mid-October, with the Cowboys saying he failed a
physical. Ratliff missed the final six games in 2012 with a groin
injury that required surgery.
The Bears, who
had one of their worst defensive seasons ever, saw enough good
things to bring him back.
Ratliff had 14
1/2 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks with Chicago. In nine seasons with the
Cowboys and Bears, he has 331 1/2 tackles and 28 1/2 sacks.
The Bears have
signed 10 players who were due to become unrestricted free agents
March 11, most of any team in the NFL.