Bill Belichick loves him some Champ Bailey.
The real question may be why haven't the Patriots signed Bailey by the time you read this.
Bailey told the world Wednesday he was going to be released by the Broncos. He is a former All-Pro and veteran entering the twilight of his career. He is the type of player the Patriots and Bill Belichick [see Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Corey Dillon] once scooped up with amazing regularity [at a discount of course] and used to help them build Super Bowl winners and contenders.
Bailey is a free agent and he has a big fan Belichick. Do the math.
Bailey's role was chiseled into Patriots' history when he helped the Broncos snuff out New England's chances to three-peat as Super Bowl champs with this interception in the 2005 playoffs.
It was also the greatest play of Ben Watson's career.
Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection was set to earn a $1 million roster bonus on March 15 and would have earned $9 million this season in Denver.
"It sucks, but at the same time, I have to move on. I can't dwell on it. I know they're not dwelling on it," Bailey told USA Today.
This might not suck for the Patriots.
Belichick is legendary for short, terse answers whenever he is asked about opposing players. The Hoodie, however, went full Doris Kearns Goodwin when he described Bailey in October of 2012, two days before the Patriots beat the Broncos, 31-21.
"To me, he's one of the few corners in the league that really can match up against anybody. He matches up against the Andre Johnsons of the world, the big, strong, physical, fast guys. Then he'll match up against quick, real good route running, quick receivers, guys like that, too. [It] doesn't really make any difference. You can watch him match up against whoever they want to put him on, whether it's Mike Wallace or whether it's Calvin Johnson, through the years; I'm not just talking about this year.
"At times, he's been on tight ends, like when he would be on (Tony) Gonzalez back in the day and things like that. So, I think he's really capable of being physical and standing in there and banging with the big guys. He's got enough quickness and length with the little guys to match their quickness and give them a problem and stay with them, or if he gets his hands on them and jams them, he can destroy the route right off the bat.
He's a very instinctive player, so he has a good sense of what the guy is trying to do and what their tendencies are and things like that. He's on a lot of routes just because he's experienced and he's smart. I think he can cover, I'd say there aren't too many corners in the league, it would be hard to think of who the next one would be, who like him could match up as well against any type of receiver.
Some guys do well against some type of players and have a little trouble with another type of guy. It looks like to me like he does a pretty good job against anybody, on whoever the other team's best receiver is, if they want to match him up, which sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. They don't always match him but at times they will.
"He can match them or not match them or he can take whoever comes out and do a pretty good job with it. Man, zone, he's a good Cover-2 corner, he's a good one-on-one corner, he's a good zone corner, tackles well, he's a good run-force corner, he's pretty much a prototype corner in terms of having a full set of skills. Does everything well, plays the ball well, very good hands, but he's a strong tackler and a good run-force player, too."
Everything Belichick has said since coming to New England is really just one run-on sentence with breaks for bye-weeks and the offseason.
Bailey has certainly lost half-a-step since then, but this was less than two seasons ago. Praise like this from Belichick is about as rare as Gronk performing Shakespeare in the Park. The last time Belichick went off about someone with such effusive praise, he was describing the guy who invented video tape. Praise of Bailey is not exclusive to Belichick in New England. Just check out the top trending topics on Twitter in Boston late Wednesday night, March 5. That's also further proof that those who doubt the omnipotence of the NFL when it comes to owning the spotlight do so at their own peril.
Tupac? That's another story.
Given Aqib Talib's impending free-agency and Bob Kraft's unwillingness to part with $11 million or $12 million a year for a cornerback, the presence of Bailey would add stability and veteran leadership to the Patriots' secondary at a bargain price.
Bailey and Talib are roughly equal in height. Talib is 6-1 and Bailey is 6-0. Until last season's foot injury, Bailey was much more durable and reliable. Since coming into the league in 1999, he's only missed more than three games twice in a season. Of course, Bailey is 35 to Talib's 28, but the Patriots, or any team who signs him, would most likely offer only a one-year deal.
That's all New England would need or expect from Bailey at this stage, especially with him coming off a foot injury that kept him out of all but four regular-season games in 2013.
Unlike current Patriots' cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who currently sits in a Nebraska jail, or Talib, who was traded to New England while serving a PED suspension, Bailey's character is impeccable under NFL standards.
Bailey has 52 career interceptions since coming into the league as a first-round pick for Washington in 1999. He was hampered by foot problems last season, starting only three regular-season games. Bailey played in Denver's AFC title game win over the Patriots and participated in its annihilation at the hands of Seattle in the Super Bowl.
In addition to the football pluses that Bailey could bring New England, there's the whole "redemption/revenge" factor. Having Bailey in a pivotal game against the Broncos next season, either during the regular season [they meet in Foxborough again] or the playoffs could be beneficial. And unlike Talib, Bailey participated in all four quarters of this year's AFC title game. If nothing else, the Patriots could pay Bailey a couple of million to return the favor Wes Welker delivered to them and Talib. Then there's the whole intel and psy-ops thing.
Bailey definitely does not want to retire. He went so far as saying he'd be willing to consider playing safety, if that was his only option or if his new team wanted him to do so.
"I just want to see what people will want me to do. My vision is to still play corner, but I'm a little more open-minded about the season I had last year." Bailey told USA Today. "I'm a corner at heart. If a situation made sense to play safety, then I would consider it."
Spoken like a true Patriot.
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