Mickey Loomis is at it again. Like a teenage girl with her dad’s credit card, he continues to buy anything he pleases, despite obvious financial constraints. This time, the New Orleans Saints’ general manager worked his fiscal magic and signed well decorated cornerback Champ Bailey to a 2 year deal worth up to $7 million.
Everyone knows what Bailey used to be; a consummate shut down corner elected to 7 All Pro Teams and 12 Pro Bowls, and arguably one of the best defensive players in the league. However, at 35 years old, Bailey is a far cry from what he was, playing in only 5 games this season. So what should the Saints truly expect from Bailey?
Bailey, at this point in his career, is a serviceable number two cornerback at best. He isn’t as fast as he used to be to keep up with all the burners and speed guys, as evidenced by Baltimore’s Torrey Smith’s completely dismantling him in the playoffs two seasons ago.
Last season, Bailey played the majority of his snaps in the slot, and was pretty decent. Bailey also displayed the ability to be a solid tackler even at his age. And though speed guys give him fits, Bailey is still very adept in bump and run coverage.
There is also speculation that Bailey might be making a move to safety a la Charles Woodson. According to Bailey, a transition to safety was not discussed in his visit to the Saints, but that seems like a real possibility, especially in Rob Ryan’s defense.
Now, at the age of 35, many pundits question whether Bailey has enough in the tank to play either safety or corner. Last season, he had a poor showing in the playoffs, and wasn’t the same guy in the five games he did play in the regular season. On one hand, it could be that Bailey’s abilities have expired, but he also played through injury in the playoffs and forced himself onto the field for the chance to play in the Super Bowl.
In his last healthy season (2012), Bailey was victimized time and again by number one receivers, and wasn’t the Bailey of old (which is a lofty standard to live up to). Luckily, the Saints have Keenan Lewis, a true lockdown corner to handle opponents’ number one target. Whatever the case, Bailey’s mental prowess, experience, and versatility will all be invaluable for Ryan.
Now, whether Bailey’s physical attributes are up to par is a question that will not be answered until he actually takes the field. What cannot be questioned is Bailey’s intangibles, which is worth every penny of his two year deal. Bailey will bring a Hall of Fame, veteran presence, something this secondary, though talented, could really use.
Bailey’s work ethic and locker room presence will serve wonders to players like Corey White and Kenny Vaccaro who grew up watching Bailey as children. For as good as our secondary was last year, Bailey, along with veterans Jairus Byrd and Lewis will spearhead a more disciplined group of players.
For now, as a Saints’ fan, I am not going to worry about what Bailey has left in the tank. Obviously, I am hoping for a complete resurrection of his career (talking 2006 Champ), but it is highly unlikely, but I will enjoy my delusions nonetheless. However, as an objective observer, I expect Bailey’s off the field presence to be as impactful, if not more impactful, than his play on the field.