One of the finest defensive players of this era is hanging up the cleats.
Despite lingering interest from a handful of teams, Champ Bailey has chosen to retire from the NFL to pursue other career opportunities, his agent, Jack Reale, told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.
“Every professional athlete knows and understands that at some point his career will end and it will be time to move on to another phase in life,” Bailey said in a statement released by the Broncos. “For me, that time is now.”
“It’s a decision made after great thought and, for this reason, I announce my decision to retire. I thank you all for your support.”
An immediate fixture on the field from the minute Washington made him the No. 7 overall pick in 1999, Bailey’s blanketing coverage and ball-hawking skills were at their most dominant during a 2006 campaign that saw him lead the NFL with 10 interceptions.
All the while, Bailey was known as a dignified and quiet leader who made an impression on the players and coaches he worked alongside.
“Champ was the pillar in this organization for a long, long time,” Broncos general manager John Elway said. “He brought great stability to the Broncos not only as a player but as a person through his ability and leadership.”
A member of the Hall of Fame‘s All-2000s Team, Bailey was limited to five starts with the Broncos last season but returned to the field in time to produce a signature Indian-summer performance in the AFC Championship Game, allowing just one reception for four yards in a victory over the New England Patriots.
“Champ Bailey is one of the best cornerbacks ever to play in the NFL, in my opinion,” Peyton Manning said. “… He was a great teammate in the two years we were here together, and it was very easy to see what made him such a special player.”
Bailey finishes his career notched with former Oilers and Redskins cornerback Ken Houston for the most Pro Bowl nods among defensive backs. Sizing up his odds for the Hall of Fame, it’s worth noting that the short list of players with more Pro Bowl appearances include Reggie White, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Merlin Olsen, Bruce Matthews and Tony Gonzalez.
He’ll join the bulk of them in Canton someday soon.