Will He Stay or Will He Go?
By: Mark Solway 
Posted: 2004-02-14
Category: Washington Redskins News
Yesterday the football world was rocked by an announcement that Champ Bailey had been given permission to pursue a trade. While this rocked the football world, it really shouldn't have rocked Redskins world where the faithful should be less surprised by the announcement.

Champ Bailey began his campaign to get a big contract in 2004 nice and early... training camp 2003. Ever since then, any Redskin fan that didn't realize that Champ might be playing elsewhere next year, is a very glass is half full type persona. The Pro Bowl cornerback made it known early on in 2003 that he wanted to start talking about a new contract. While the level of disruption to the 2003 season was small, it was there, and Roland 'Champ' Bailey showed a small side of himself that had been shielded from public view until then... greed.

Over the course of the 2003 season, the Redskins and Bailey and his agent Jack Reale failed to come to any agreement that would extend Champ's tenure as a Redskin. In all honesty, perhaps it was the distraction that caused Champ to have arguably his most average season as a Redskin. Regardless, he still played well enough to be selected to the Pro Bowl again.

And that brings us to the present state of affairs, the off-season is here, Champ is about to become an unrestricted free agent, and decision time is coming. There is no denying that Champ is a great player, the problem lies in determining just how good a player he is. The Redskins offered Champ a $55 million contract that had $14.7 in bonuses that was refused due to the structure of the bonuses (same sort that Lavar Arrington agreed to in his recent contract extension). This offer was on the table for the 2003 season with a 9-year term. Reportedly, in this off-season's talks, the Redskins offered essentially the same contract but over only an 8 year term. But Bailey's camp was not interested and apparently are insisting that he be paid like one of the top defensive players in the league. And so the two sides are at an impasse.

The Redskins have the protection of the franchise tag to slap on Bailey and they have until February 24th to do so. Unfortunately, the tag would carry a mandatory $6.8 million cap number and make it very difficult to actively pursue all of the free agents that they might like to.

And so we come to yesterday when the Redskins allowed Bailey to talk to other teams. And why not? At this point, it is obvious that the two sides have an ardent disagreement as to Bailey's exact worth and it will not be resolved quickly. So why not see what he's worth to other teams. The franchise tag guarantees a first round draft pick if they are taken by another team, but this allows the Redskins to take offers in other forms like players or players AND draft picks. The Redskins will also be able to tell by the types of offers that they get whether or not Champ would be snapped up if they DO decide to put the franchise tag on him.

The Redskins have holes to fill in many areas, and Mr. Bailey would be departing in a free agent season that is plentiful in players at his position. There is no denying that they are not likely quite the caliber of cornerback that Champ is, but there's also no denying that they will not be anywhere near a cap number of $7 million. In fact, it is likely that with a larger signing bonus and minimum contract in 2004, that cap number could be as low as $2-3 million for a very good cornerback like Antoine Winfield, Shawn Springs, Bobby Taylor or Will Peterson just to name a few.

This early in the off-season, it would be irresponsible to view any moves as anything more than posturing and positioning. And as the rest of the football community gasps at the availability of Champ, hopefully the Redskin community sees it for the natural progression of events that it is. Friday's announcement that a trade could be pursued proves only one thing; the Redskins are interested to find out what Champ Bailey is worth to other teams, before they decide if he is worth the franchise tag and the subsequent cap hit.


-- Boss Hog
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