KUSA – What the Broncos really need from Champ Bailey is to halt the rigmarole of his Hall of Fame process and come play cornerback for Vic Fangio.
The Broncos’ new head coach has been known to play more zone coverage than Denver has in recent years.
"Champ was arguably the best zone cornerback to ever play in the National Football League," Bill Romanowski, the former Broncos’ linebacker, said during Super Bowl LIII week. "He just had an awareness of the field that was second to none."
As Champ retired five years ago, he can proceed with preparing for his task as Keynote Speaker at the Denver-area Boys Scouts breakfast on April 9 while the Broncos get busy trying to find their own cornerbacks. They are so depleted at the position, they probably need to pick up two – one in free agency and one high in the draft.
The Broncos’ only proven corner with plenty of game left in him is Chris Harris Jr. But their next two cornerbacks, Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock, are unrestricted free agents. No. 4 cornerback, Isaac Yiadom, will miss much of the offseason practices because of shoulder surgery.
The buzz at the NFL Combine is the Broncos are expected to sign a starting corner from the free-agent market. Here are the top candidates:
Ronald Darby, 25, 5-11, Eagles
A second-round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills, he made the Pro Football Writers’ All Rookie team in 2015. But after his second season as a starter, Darby was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick.
Darby has since been injury prone, suffering a dislocated ankle in the Eagles’ 2017 opener, although he returned at midseason and played well in their postseason run to the Super Bowl 52 title.
He was the Eagles top corner in 2018 until he suffered a torn ACL in game 9 against Dallas. Still, Darby is a taller corner and he just turned 25 so he is expected to get a nice contract with expectations he’ll be ready to go by the third preseason game.
Bryce Callahan, 27, 5-9, Bears
Problem here is he’s a good slot corner, and the Broncos already have the best slot corner in the NFL in Harris. If the Broncos plan on keeping Harris outside – which is his preference – Callahan would make sense as he played for Fangio since he was an undrafted rookie in 2015.
Bashaud Breeland, 27, 5-11, Packers
He began his career as a four-year starter for Washington, then was supposed to be a top free-agent prize last year. His three-year, $24 million agreement with Carolina, though, was voided because he flunked his physical.
He signed an inexpensive, one-year deal with the Packers a couple weeks into the 2018 season and he played well in the final two months, recording a pick six against Matt Ryan.
He’ll try again to strike it rich in 11 days.
Pierre Desir, 28, 6-1, Colts
A former Cleveland fourth-round pick, the Haitian-born product of Lindenwood (Saint Charles, Mo.) University was unimpressive in four seasons with the Browns, but he was a 12-game starter for the Colts and had an eye-popping 79 tackles – third among NFL cornerbacks.
Fangio has said tackling is a non-negotiable characteristic in his secondary.
Steven Nelson, 25, 5-11, Chiefs
A third-round pick in 2015, he had the first four interceptions of his career in his fourth season of 2018. He is a legit outside corner.
Kareem Jackson, 31, 5-10, Texans
A first-round draft pick in 2010 and a nine-year starter, Jackson has played well enough long enough to earn a third contract. He averaged $8.5 million a year in his previous deal.
Bradley Roby, 26, Broncos
A first-round pick in 2014, the Broncos picked up his fifth-year option of $8.526 million in 2018. He played well at times, not well at other times.
The Broncos would like him back at a reduced average annual rate, but he will seek a deal of at least $10 million a year. If his market isn’t what he’s hoping for, the Broncos could come back into play.
Others: Darqueze Dennard, Bengals; Justin Coleman, Seahawks; Jason Verrett, Chargers; Tramaine Brock, Broncos; Kevin Johnson, Texans.