Champ Bailey Should Be Hall of Famer
Roland Champ Bailey was selected seventh overall by the Washington Redskins in the 1999 NFL draft after a standout career at the University of Georgia. He spent much of the next fifteen years locking down his side of the field. After being named a 2019 finalist, a Hall of Fame nod should be the next accolade attached to Bailey’s legacy. Even in his first year of eligibility, it is hard to argue anyone is more deserving of a gold jacket and induction into Canton.
Playing alongside Hall of Famers Deion Sanders (’00) and Darrell Green (’99-02) in Washington, Bailey still made his presence felt. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team, Bailey started all 16 games his rookie season; picking off five passes, returning one for a touchdown. Over five seasons in Washington, Bailey started every game, logging 18 interceptions, 81 deflections, two forced fumbles, five recoveries, and the score.
Bailey led the league in pass deflections in 2002. Then, after making his fourth-straight Pro Bowl following the 2003 season and his contract up, Bailey sought and received permission to seek a trade. The Redskins sent Bailey and a second-round pick to the Denver Broncos for running back Clinton Portis. The two still disagree on which team actually got the better end of that deal.
In each of his first three seasons in Denver, Bailey made First-Team All-Pro. He went to the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in ’04 and again in ’05. Denver made the playoffs five times in ten seasons with Denver, reaching the Super Bowl in 2013. He finished his career tied for fourth in Broncos history with 34 interceptions.
2006 saw him tie Asante Samuel to lead the NFL with 10 interceptions, have 21 deflections, and lead the league with 162 interception return yards; allowing no touchdowns. He also set the playoff mark for longest non-scoring interception return; a 100-yard pick of Tom Brady that saw him tackled by Benjamin Watson at the one-yard line. He finished second to Jason Taylor for Defensive Player of the Year.
Champ would start all 16 games in each of his first six seasons and eight times total in his career. In fact, he did not start fewer than 14 games in a season until 2008. He played in 215 of a possible 240 games, starting 212. He was named first-team All-Pro three times and second team twice. A 12-time Pro Bowler – top among cornerbacks – he made eight straight from 2000-07. He retired 16th all-time with 52 career picks.
With a career that shines on its’ own and saw him compare favorably to many current Hall of Famers, Bailey deserves to be enshrined in Canton. The man himself sure thinks so. Now at the age of 40, Champ says he could probably still play. Hopefully, that will not be necessary. With a resume like a Champ Baliey’s, the voters should agree with Sanders and Broncos corner Chris Harris. If they do, then the man who is already Champ will certainly be a Hall of Famer.
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