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It Becomes Official, Tomorrow


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And now the second shoe has fallen.

Just one day after Clinton Portis agreed to the largest contract ever awarded a running back, ESPN.com has learned that Champ Bailey approved a landmark cornerback deal with Denver on Tuesday night that will result in the two players switching teams later this week.

The Washington Redskins star and four-time Pro Bowl performer will sign a seven-year, $63 million contract, the final piece of the puzzle in the trade that will send Bailey and a second-round draft choice to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Portis. The contact, the largest ever for a cornerback, includes an $18 million signing bonus and roster bonuses that total $5 million.

On Monday, Portis agreed to an eight-year contract worth $50.5 million and including bonus money of $17 million. The Portis contract is worth about $27.5 million in its first five years.

With the Bailey agreement now in place, the Redskins and Broncos can complete their blockbuster trade. The earliest the deal can be announced in Wednesday, when the NFL's trade moratorium is lifted. League sources said earlier this week that the Broncos have tentatively planned a Thursday news conference to introduce Bailey.

Because the Bailey contract is complicated with several addenda, it took several days for the cornerback and agent Jack Reale to review the documents. Reale was still reviewing the documents late Monday afternoon and awaiting final revisions.

One of the final points to be hammered out was how much time Bailey would spend in Denver this spring participating in the Broncos' offseason program. Bailey and his wife are both taking classes at the University of Georgia and so it was necessary to dovetail their schedule with the Broncos' offseason workout dates. Plus, in a contract of this size, there are issues of funding and distribution to be arranged.

Particularly interesting in the Bailey contract is that it is not backloaded, as are many agreements of this magnitude. In the first three seasons, Bailey will earn a whopping $27 million, the same per-year average as that of the entire contract. That also represents about $10.5 more in cash than Bailey would have earned in a proposal from the Redskins that he rejected last summer.

Most experts agree that, even with the brilliance of Portis, the Broncos got the upper hand in the trade of young stars. Cornerback is typically viewed as a more premium position than tailback, plus Washington is including its second-round choice in the 2004 draft.

Just on the players involved in the trade alone, the deal is regarded as one of the biggest in recent NFL history. But the fact that both players agreed to record contracts in advance of changing teams further heightens its significance.

Bailey was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 draft and universally acknowledged as one of the NFL's premier players at one of its highest-profile positions. He 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, 25, has recorded 313 tackles and 18 interceptions during his career and is considered a "shut-down cornerback."

While I don't agree with Portis becoming the highest paid RB ever -- I do agree that Champ Bailey is worthy of being the highest paid corner ever. His numbers aren't anything special -- but that shows exactly how good he is. You don't throw towards this guy, bottomline.

The deal will probably be made official tomorrow.

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