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Charles Tillman - Free agent - Charles Tillman has been such a good player, but more importantly he's been such a good person during his time in Chicago, that I think a lot of fans overvalue what he could bring to the Bears in 2014. Don't get me wrong, I think a healthy Tillman would be a plus for any team, but after struggling through injuries in 2013, how much do you offer him?
The recent Brian Urlacher contract history tells us the Bears may offer a take it or leave it deal, but that's not entirely fair. Tillman is younger than Urlacher was and his injury isn't to his legs. Tillman should make a complete recovery from his triceps injury, so if he checks out medically Chicago GM Phil Emery could bring more than a one year deal to the table.
Early in the season Tillman suffered from a groin and a knee injury, but both of those were fine when he hurt his triceps. He is at an age where the little injuries start to mount up for a player, so that's something that has to be considered as well.
The early injuries really hurt Tillman's performance and his Pro Football Focus grade reflects that. They gave Tillman a -6.5 overall with three of his first four games in the red. Of his last four games, he had two neutrally graded games, one positive, and his final game, in which he suffered the triceps injury yet played on, was negative.
Tillman has said he'd like to return to the Bears, he's also expressed interest in reuniting with Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. He even said joining the Detroit Lions is a posibility. The bottom line is Tillman will test the market and he'll sign where ever he feels is right for him and his family.
Tim Jennings - Signed through 2017 - Jennings was added to his 2nd Pro Bowl after his 2013 season and he was also rewarded with some new paper. When Tillman went down with his injury it was Jennings that stepped up his game to take on opposing #1 wide outs. He more than held his own.
PFF had him at 0.3, which placed him as the 55th corner, but with a struggling pass rush in front of him, he was asked to cover for a long time. He had the highest grade of any Bears secondary player in 2013.
Zack Bowman - Free agent - I think the Bears were OK with Bowman's play in place of Tillman, but not enough to bring him back as the starter. Bowman is what he is, a serviceable backup that can play special teams. Of the 11 games he played more than a handful of plays, he graded out 4 games in the green, three in the red and four neutral. His defensive PFF grade was -3.2, and as a special teamer he had a -3.0.
Isaiah Frey - Signed through 2014 - Frey had an average first year as the primary nickle back last season. He spent his entire rookie year on the practice squad, then was thrust into the nickle position due to injury this preseason. Frey played in every single game, and his overall PFF grade was -4.8.
To go a little deeper into his grade, he only had two games in the red and those equaled -4.6. They had him playing OK ball most of the year, nothing too spectacular, but something for the soon to be 24 year old to build on. If Tillman isn't re-signed, Frey may be given a chance to start outside.
Kelvin Hayden - Free agent - You remember Hayden don't you? He was set to be the starting nickle back until an injury in preseason landed him on season ending injured reserve. Hayden has nickle experience, but he's also played corner, so bringing him back as depth is a possibility. The Bears will need to be sure his hamstring is 100% healed before they start any contract talks. He will be 31 later this year, so the Bears may decide to look for someone younger.
Sherrick McManis - Free agent - McManis only had 12 defensive snaps, but he was an active special teamer all season. PFF gave him a +2.0 grade in the 3rd phase with 9 tackles. I doubt he'll be too pricey, so I can see the Bears bringing him back.
Derrick Martin - Free agent - Martin played some corner, nickle and safety in his career, but he was mainly special teams with the Bears. I suppose a weak defensive back market could land him a cheap vet minimum contract back in Chicago, but I think the Bears may move on. PFF did have him with a +1.5 special teams grade, so maybe he has some value.
Demontre Hurst - Signed a reserve/future contract - The knock on Hurst coming out of college was that he needed to add some strength to play outside. He'll need to bulk up and show the Bears he can play special teams in order to get past their practice squad in 2014.
C.J. Wilson - Signed a reserve/future contract - Wilson had enough time on the active roster to garner a -1.5 special teams grade. He'll be in camp, and he'll be competing for a job. The practice squad is a possibility for Wilson as well.
2013 OUTLOOK - If Tillman is gone, I don't see a guy on the current roster that should be the clear cut starter opposite Jennings. Frey deserves a shot at the job, but he'll need to step up his game, and the two young guys aren't ready for prime time. The Bears need more talent at the position, but if they do decide to go the free agent route I don't see many guys that could fit their budget or their youth movement.
I think with or without Tillman, the Bears need to draft a corner. I also think they'll bring in a cheap free agent or two to compete and push the young DBs on the roster.
If the Bears want Tillman back, I think the two sides could come to a fair agreement. Most NFL teams don't throw big money at aging corners, so if he has comparable offers, I think he'll go where he feels he can win. That could be in Chicago, but we'll find out how he feels in the next few months.
What are your thoughts on the cornerback position for the 2014 Chicago Bears?
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