DENVER — Champ Bailey spent a decade with the Denver Broncos, making eight Pro Bowls and picking off 34 passes even with quarterbacks only reluctantly glancing his way.
This number was hard to overlook: $10 million.
In a salary-cap move Thursday, the Broncos released the 35-year-old Bailey, the team’s defensive leader who’s been a fan favorite since he was acquired in a trade with Washington in 2004.
There’s simply no room for loyalty in the NFL, especially with free agency about to start and with holes needing to be filled, something that became apparent to the Broncos after a 43-8 loss to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
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Broncos boss John Elway called the decision to release Bailey a “difficult” one given all that the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback has brought to the team over his 10 seasons in Denver.
But age and injuries had begun to catch up with one of the best shutdown cornerbacks to play the game. Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler overall, is scheduled to make around $10 million next season, which is a lot of money for a cornerback who may be asked to switch to safety or possibly inside to the slot position.
• Two people familiar with the situation say Michael Vick and the Eagles haven’t ruled out the quarterback returning to Philadelphia. Vick will become a free agent next week, and the four-time Pro Bowl pick has made it clear he’ll look for an opportunity to be a starter.
• Devin Hester is done returning kicks in Chicago. The Bears confirmed they are parting ways with the three-time Pro Bowl pick after eight seasons, confirming what he told the NFL Network the previous day.
Hester matched Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’ NFL record with his 19th return touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard punt return at Washington in October. It was Hester’s 13th punt return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.
• Kicker Billy Cundiff agreed to a one-year, $1.02 million contract with Cleveland.
• Indianapolis signed linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to a four-year, $22 million contract.