DENVER - One day after meeting with cornerback Champ Bailey, the Denver Broncos have officially released the 15-year veteran.
"This was a difficult decision for our team with everything that Champ Bailey has meant to the Denver Broncos and this community over the last 10 years," Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway was quoted on the Denver Broncos website. "Without question, he’s among the best cornerbacks to ever play the game and one of the finest players in the history of the Broncos. You couldn’t ask for more in a player than what Champ brought to this team. His combination of elite talent, class, leadership and competitiveness made him one of the all-time greats."
"I consider it a privilege to have coached Champ these last three years,” Head Coach John Fox said on DenverBroncos.com. “I thank him and truly appreciate everything he did for our team. There’s no doubt he played an integral role in establishing a culture of winning here."
7NEWS Sports Anchor Lionel Bienvenu said the Broncos will save $10 million in salary cap with Bailey's release. That puts the team about $29 million under the salary cap.
Bailey missed a number of games in 2013 with a nagging sprained left foot, but returned to help the team claim the AFC championship with a win over New England, and play in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks.
The perennial Pro Bowl cornerback has been in the NFL for 15 years -- playing for the Washington Redskins from 1999 until 2004 before he was traded to Denver.
With Bailey out, the Broncos have used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as their No. 1 cornerback, matching him up on elite receivers no matter where they line up.
Bailey told USA Today that he looks forward to free agency for the first time in his NFL career.
"It sucks, but at the same time, I have to move on. I can’t dwell on it. I know they’re not dwelling on it," Bailey told USA Today.
"On behalf of everyone with the Broncos, I wish Champ all the best and thank him for everything he did for this franchise," Elway wrote. "Champ will always be a Bronco. We look forward to his Ring of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame election in the years ahead.”
On the Denver Broncos website, the team has created a video called "A Tribute to Champ Bailey."