DENVER – Champ Bailey missed Denver's finale against San Diego on Sunday with a bruised right heel in what could be his final game for the Broncos.
The perennial Pro Bowl cornerback was mulling an extension from the Broncos in mid-October when the team suddenly withdrew the proposal, leaving his future up in the air. He's made overtures that he would like to return, but plenty of contenders are likely to come calling.
Bailey couldn't finish last week's 24-23 comeback victory over Houston after re-injuring a right heel that has hampered him all season.
Even at age 32, Bailey showed this season he hasn't lost a step, shutting down one elite receiver after another. He is the first alternate for the Pro Bowl, so he could wind up with his 10th appearance, which would be a record for cornerbacks.
Bailey is finishing his seventh season in Denver after coming over in a trade from Washington for running back Clinton Portis in 2004.
He has 48 career interceptions, the third-most since he broke into the league as a rookie with the Redskins in 1999, trailing only safeties Darren Sharper (61) and Ed Reed (52). He also has the most pass breakups in that time frame.
That despite teams preferring to try their luck on the other side of the field.
Bailey has clamped down on quite a few top wideouts this season, holding Baltimore's Anquan Boldin to one catch for 8 yards and keeping Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and Indy's Reggie Wayne out of the end zone despite a pass rush that has produced a league-low 18 sacks.
The zenith of Bailey's season was Dec. 5 at Kansas City, where he stymied Chiefs standout wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who came into the game with 13 touchdown catches in his previous seven games but did nothing against Bailey.
Rookie Perrish Cox will take Bailey's place at cornerback. Bailey has been teaching the fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma State the finer points of being a shutdown corner since training camp.
A passing of the torch if Bailey bolts?
Bailey said earlier this season his preference is to remain in the Mile High City, provided the team doesn't embark on a rebuilding project next season after the ousted Josh McDaniels traded away a flock of Bailey's talented teammates, including Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler and Peyton Hillis.
Kyle Orton (sore ribs) was the Broncos' third quarterback for the third straight week.
The Chargers were missing receiver Patrick Crayton (wrist) and linebacker Larry English (foot). The team placed tight end Antonio Gates (foot/toe) on injured reserve last week, along with linebacker Stephen Cooper (knee) and running back Mike Tolbert (neck and shoulder).