Instead, the Bears re-signed cornerback Charles Tillman, retaining the 12-year veteran to remain in Chicago. Tillman has been offered a one-year deal worth about $3.5 million, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.
One of the toughest and most disruptive cornerbacks of his generation, the 33-year-old Tillman has intercepted 36 passes, collected 849 combined tackles and forced 42 fumbles since joining Chicago as a second-round pick in 2003 from Louisana-Layfayette.
Tillman has played in a total of 154 regular season games for the Bears, out of a total of 176. In the three post-season games the Bears have made it to the playoffs ('05, '06 and '10), Tillman has been on the field for six games, posting 37 tackles and one forced fumble.
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Off the field, Tillman was selected the 2013 Walter Payton Man of The Year by the NFL in February, capturing one of the most coveted awards a player could receive off the field.
Tillman has been a stalwart member of the Chicago Bears defense for a decade since being drafted, and established himself as an upper-echelon cornerback during that time. He reaching two Pro Bowls and being named an All-Pro once.
He had strong words in the weeks leading up to Chicago's decision:
My gut is I will be on an NFL team next year. Everyone knows how the process works. It's a business. If I'm here, sweet. If I'm not, that's business … There's no hard feelings. I love Chicago. Chicago's been nothing but great—great owners, great organization, great teammates.In a show of loyalty, Tillman passed on a chance to join his old coach Lovie Smith in Tampa, where he visited this week even though a starting job probably isn't guaranteed at this stage of his career.
Losing Tillman would have been a "Peanut Punch" to the gut. The more Tillman stays on the field, the closer the defense gets to respectability. He was able to secure a new contract and now begins the process of proving his performance last season was not a sign of things to come. It wouldn't be a surprise if Tillman bounces back and was a driving force in the secondary
In the eight seasons prior to 2013, he racked up 29 interceptions and broke the 80-tackle plateau six times. Tillman also had 36 forced fumbles over that time span which highlighlighted his ability to help in run defense as well.
Whether he will be able to reach the same impact level in terms of all-around contributions is probably a long shot. With that said, he should still have enough left in the tank to remain a valuable member of the defense in the short term.
He will also be a positive veteran influence in the locker room. Tillman hopes to bring the Super Bowl ring back to the Chicago Bears and end their 29 year drought.
With an 8-8 record in 2013, and with the loss of Peppers and back up quarterback Josh McClown, Chicago is seemingly on the verge of collapsing. But with free agency in full swing, and having the 14th overall pick in the draft, the Bears are slowly and surely trying to re-build their team to become a playoff contender.
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