Response to CB's availability 'pretty amazing'

The agent for Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey will spend only about 48 hours at the NFL combine workouts later this week, but Jack Reale hopes that his short visit to Indianapolis will have long-term ramifications for his client.

Updated: February 17, 2004, 12:20 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The agent for Washington Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey will spend only about 48 hours at the NFL combine workouts later this week, but Jack Reale hopes that his short visit to Indianapolis will have long-term ramifications for his client.

"I plan," said Reale, "to make the most of my time there."

The Redskins last week granted Bailey, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency next month, permission to speak with other teams about a contract that could lead to a trade. Toward that end, Reale has spoken with and arranged to meet representatives from several teams interested in Bailey during the combine.

Not surprisingly, Reale declined to quantify the number of calls he has received about the four-time Pro Bowl corner, but termed as "pretty amazing" the response to the unusual move that Redskins owner Dan Snyder made last Thursday evening.

Detroit Lions president Matt Millen acknowledged that he has spoken to Washington officials to gauge an asking price. And officials from two other teams that asked not to be identified told ESPN.com they had preliminary discussions with Reale and plan to follow up during the combine. For some franchises, huddling with the normally low-key Reale could become a high priority in Indianapolis.

Several league sources said Snyder is seeking first- and second-round choices, preferably in this year's draft, in exchange for Bailey, one of the NFL's premier cornerbacks.

But completing both components of the trade equation -- having a team accede to Bailey's contract demands and then reaching an accord with the Redskins on compensation -- still is a long shot proposition before the Feb. 24 deadline for designating "franchise" players. If a deal isn't completed by then, Washington almost certainly will retain the negotiating rights to Bailey with the "franchise" label, but could still subsequently trade him.

Once the Redskins apply the "franchise" tag to Bailey, though, they face some very tough hurdles. One is the possibility that Bailey and Reale could quickly opt to accept the one-year, $6.801 guaranteed qualifying offer that the "franchise" tag entails. Such a gambit by Bailey would severely impact the club's salary cap status.

"There are a lot of tricky elements to this thing," Reale conceded.

Bailey, 25, just finished the final season of his original NFL contract and has been discussing an extension with the Redskins, on and off, since last summer.

Granting permission to speak with other clubs likely signals an impasse in negotiations, aimed at extending the contract of the five-year veteran, but it might also reflect any number of potential scenarios. Among them: The team could attempt to recoup draft choices it might invest in acquiring quarterback Mark Brunell from the Jacksonville Jaguars in the coming days. Or the Redskins, having recently signed strongside linebacker LaVar Arrington to a blockbuster contract, may have decided they cannot afford to have two such highly-paid defenders on the same roster.

Arrington on Dec. 28 signed an eight-year contract worth $60 million-$68 million and included a signing bonus of $15.5 million and an option bonus of $4.5 million.

Even when players are granted permission to speak with other teams, trades are rarely consummated, and the Redskins reserve the prerogative, of course, to reject offers from around the league. But the fact Snyder would put a player of Bailey's stature on the trade block certainly sent ripples through the NFL on Friday afternoon.

"My first reaction," said one AFC general manager, "was that it was a joke. Once I found out it was (legitimate), I mean, how could I ignore it? The guy is only 25 years old, is a bona fide star in the league, and plays a 'must have' position. You've got to at least find out the price of doing business."

Even before the start of the 2004 campaign, Snyder raised the possibility with other NFL owners of trading his star cornerback. He casually mentioned to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, for instance, that Bailey might be available for the right price.

Redskins chief negotiator Eric Schaffer huddled with Reale in Atlanta last week and essentially offered a contract similar to the proposal the Redskins made to Bailey during training camp last summer. That proposal was reportedly for a nine-year contract worth about $55 million and featuring total bonus money of approximately $14 million. It was rejected by Bailey and Reale in the summer and, sources said, was no better received this time around.

The seventh player chosen overall in the 1999 draft, and universally acknowledged as one of the NFL's premier players at one of its highest-profile positions, Bailey was elected to the NFC Pro Bowl team each of the past four seasons. The former University of Georgia star has never missed a game in five seasons, making 80 straight appearances.

Bailey has recorded 313 tackles and 18 interceptions during his career and most talent evaluators agree he fits the term "shut-down cornerback."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

ALSO SEE