All-Pro corner could join brother

Updated: February 18, 2004, 9:21 PM ET
Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci attends the NFL combine Thursday, he plans to do more than evaluate rookies.

Mariucci also wants to talk with Washington about acquiring star cornerback Champ Bailey.

"I'm hoping that we can discuss this face-to-face in Indianapolis," Mariucci said Wednesday. "If the Redskins are willing to talk about it, we're willing to listen. Champ Bailey is worth discussing. There's no question about that."

Last week, the Redskins gave Bailey permission to pursue a trade.

Bailey's agent, Jack Reale, said he spoke to "seven or eight" teams Friday after receiving a call Thursday night from Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

If the Redskins don't re-sign Bailey or trade him by Feb. 24, they will probably designate him as a franchise player, which means they would have to tender him a one-year, $6.8 million offer.

A trade for Bailey could involve a player or draft picks or a combination of the two.

Lions president Matt Millen, who was in Indianapolis on Wednesday, said there was nothing to talk about when asked about the team's interest in Bailey. Millen said he was amused at the amount of coverage the possible acquisition has generated.

"I just think it's hilarious," said Millen, who added he loved Bailey as a player.

Mariucci stressed a few times it was premature to determine the likelihood of acquiring Bailey because the Lions do not know what Washington will want in return for the four-time Pro Bowler.

"It could be something where the Redskins say, `We need this, this and this,' and we're simply unable to do that," Mariucci said. "It might be a moot point soon, but we're interested in talking about it.

"It would be like a Pudge Rodriguez signing (with the Tigers), which was very exciting to the city of Detroit."

Bailey's contract expires next month, and talks for a new deal have gone nowhere. The Redskins offered a nine-year, $55 million contract with $14.7 million in bonus money before the start of last season.

Negotiations resumed this month, with the Redskins essentially making the same offer, except the proposal covered eight years instead of nine. Bailey has said he wanted a deal that would make him one of the highest paid defensive players in the league.

"He would command a high salary, and it's worth it. He deserves it," Mariucci said. "He's one of the elite players.

"In terms of the draft choices that they might be demanding, I don't know what we're willing to give up for him because of our situation that we're in. We have some needs to fill, several of them, not just one. We need to keep that in mind as well."

In Mariucci's first season, the Lions were 5-11 after winning five games the two previous seasons.

They were 5-3 at home last season, but extended the franchise's winless streak on the road to an NFL-record 24 games.

One of Detroit's lone bright spots was cornerback Dre' Bly.

The team signed Bly last year as a free agent to a five-year contract worth about $25 million. He was the first Lions cornerback selected to start in the Pro Bowl since 1977.

If Detroit acquires Bailey, it likely will spend about $11 million annually for its starting cornerbacks.

"I don't know that I would say that it would be a negative, but we would have a lot of money tied into one position on our team," Mariucci said. "Would you be pretty comfortable with your guys on the edges? Yeah. You would be as good as anyone in the league with two Pro Bowl corners."

Bailey's younger brother, Boss, is coming off a strong season as a rookie linebacker for the Lions. Earlier this month, Detroit hired defensive backs coach George Catavolos, who coached Bailey in Washington the past two seasons.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press