The Saints are hosting 12-time Pro Bowl defensive back Champ Bailey for a free agent visit Tuesday, numerous national outlets reported.
The reports, one of which said the former Denver Bronco could visit at least one other team depending on how things went with New Orleans, began circulating after Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis posted a photo of himself posing next to Bailey at team headquarters on the social media service Instagram. Lewis wrote under the picture: “My dream was always to meet this guy and I finally did. Amen God and thankyou. A real legend. Champ Bailey.”
Bailey, who’s logged 15 seasons of NFL experience and will be 36 in June, has the third-most career interceptions (52) among active players. The three-time All-Pro and future Hall of Famer spent his first five years in the NFL with Washington and was traded to Denver in 2004.
He has four career interception returns for touchdowns, the last of which was in 2006. That year, he picked off a career-high 10 passes for a personal best 162 return yards.
After a productive 2012, a preseason foot injury limited Bailey to just eight games in 2013, three of which were in the playoffs and included Denver’s loss to Seattle in the Super Bowl. It was the worst year of his career.
Denver released Bailey at the beginning of March to save about $10 million in salary-cap space.
As for the Saints, they’re searching for candidates to partner with Lewis. While 2012 fifth-round pick Corey White handled those duties after Jabari Greer (now released) suffered a year-ending knee injury in a Week 12 win against San Francisco, there was a drop in play at times.
Another player who at the moment is slated to compete for the spot opposite Lewis is Patrick Robinson. Robinson sustained a year-ending knee injury in a Week 2 win at Tampa Bay.
Saints coach Sean Payton recently said cornerbacks talented in coverage and at creating turnovers are always at a premium in the NFL. Bailey certainly fits the bill for a defense that finished fourth overall in 2013 but also fourth from the bottom in takeaways, of which New Orleans had 19.
The Saints addressed that dearth of takeaways with their first move in free agency: acquiring former Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, whose 22 career interceptions since joining the NFL in 2009 are the most among players at his position during that time span.