Denver released the 15-year veteran Thursday.
“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 said. “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.
“On behalf of everyone with the Broncos, I wish Champ all the best and thank him for everything he did for this franchise. 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.”
Bailey first came to Denver in one of the most memorable trades in NFL history, joining the Broncos on March 4, 2014 in exchange for running back Clinton Portis and a second-round draft pick.
He snared an interception in his very first game as a Bronco, setting the tone for a decorated 10-year run in Denver.
Including the postseason, Bailey made more than 1,000 tackles in his career to go with his 54 interceptions, 245 passes defensed, nine forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, three sacks and four defensive tocuhdowns.
Bailey's 12 Pro Bowls are the most for a defensive back in NFL history.
He made the Pro Bowl in all but three seasons -- his rookie campaign and two that were injury-plagued. Still, in a 2008 season that saw him miss seven games due to injury, he was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
It was that consistency that made Bailey so successful. He grabbed at least one interception in every season he played with the exception of his final campaign, earning a spot on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
“I consider it a privilege to have coached Champ these last three years,” Head Coach John Fox said. “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. Aside from his natural ability, Champ set a great example with his hard work and relentless commitment to mastering his craft.”
The future-Hall of Famer saw time in just five regular-season games in 2013, but returned to play in all three of the team's postseason games -- including his first-ever Super Bowl berth.
"Guys like him that have put a lot into football, have given a lot to the NFL," wide receiver
That opportunity was an emotional one for Bailey.
"It's all about my family and these guys that I strap it up with every day," the cornerback said. "They really made this happen for me. It's a good way to top off 15 years."
Off the field, Bailey was a two-time recipient of the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his work in the community and was honored with the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in 2011 for his cooperation and honesty in dealing with the media.
He was the first-ever back-to-back winner of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame's Pro Athlete of the Year Award in 2005 and 2006 and was named Denver Athletic Club's Athlete of the Year in 2010.
Originally the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Bailey spent his first five seasons with the Washington Redskins before he was traded to the Broncos.
The man who he was traded for had high praise for Bailey and the mark he has left on the NFL.
“I think Champ will definitely go down as a Hall of Famer," Portis said, "and one of the best corners to ever play the game."