Even the greats eventually run out of steam. It was a terrific run for Bailey, but between his foot injury and his advanced age, he finally became a nonfactor for the Broncos this season. He was benched multiple times and probably wouldn't have factored into the Super Bowl as prominently as he did had Chris Harris not been hurt. What everyone saw in the Super Bowl was a player who just couldn't keep Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse from getting separation.
Our charting stats aren't complete, but they show Bailey having a lower success rate than any of the Broncos' top three cornerbacks. Granted, this was a small sample size, but he was also spotted some fairly choice assignments. Coming off injury and at his age (36 in June), it's hard to believe he has more than a dead-cat bounce in him.
With zero cap hit for releasing him, the Broncos stand to gain $10 million in cap space by cutting the cord on Bailey. With Harris, Tony Carter and Kayvon Webster already on the roster even before the Broncos make their decision on whether to pay Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Bailey is expendable. The Broncos will have tough decisions to make in terms of their receiving corps. Cutting Bailey may be the only no-brainer move they make this offseason.
The Bears already got out ahead of the free-agent market this year, re-signing Jay Cutler and Tim Jennings. One move they couldn't make yet, but probably will, is releasing Peppers after his subpar season.
Falling from 11.5 sacks in 2012 to 7.5 sacks last year does not even begin to tell the story of how much he regressed, as his pressures fell drastically and he was at best a neutral factor in Chicago's poor run defense. Highlighting their struggles, the Bears achieved a 10 percent or higher run defense DVOA for 11 straight games, spanning Weeks 5 to 16, and allowed a 20 percent or higher run defense in seven of those games. The Bears and Chargers were the only two teams to average worse than a 6.8 percent run defense DVOA.
With Peppers declining and turning 34 a few weeks ago, it makes all the sense in the world for Chicago to help revamp its defense with the money it would get from cutting him loose. Of all the players on this list, Peppers is the one I would be the least surprised to see have a bounce-back season because the physical skill is still undeniable even if the speed has declined. But at that figure, when cutting him would save about $9.82 million for the 2014 cap, he's not likely worth the money next season. Given the number of holes that popped up in Chicago's defense last year, it would be hard for the Bears to hold on to him at that figure.
Note: Information from Spotrac.com and Overthecap.com was used in this article.