Last year Charles Tillman ended the season on injured reserve for the Chicago Bears for the second consecutive time. After the 2013 season, the Bears felt he was rehabbed enough to help them out for another year, so they gave the 32 year old a 1 year deal. This off season, coming off another triceps injury, and another year older, the decision to bring Tillman back rests on an entirely new regime.
New GM Ryan Pace and his scouts, and new head coach John Fox and his defensive staff, will no doubt go over every inch of tape on Tillman's 2014 season before deciding his fate for 2015. Unfortunately for Tillman, there's only a game and a half to look at.
Tillman is "excited" about the direction of the Bears franchise now that Fox replaced Marc Trestman as head coach and now that Vic Fangio has replaced Mel Tucker as defensive coordinator. At some point in the near future a decision will be made in regards to bringing back the 12 year veteran for a 13th season, but if it were up to Tillman, he'd be back.
"I feel good," Tillman said. "Rehabbing, but I feel awesome, like I'm ready to go."
"Yeah, I'd like to be in Chicago," Tillman said. "I'm feeling good, feel great. I've been there 12 years. It would be 13 now. I don't know. We'll see what happens."
Tillman wasn't the only Bear that ended the season on IR, his fellow 2003 Bears' draftee Lance Briggs, was shelved after injuring his groin in week 12.
Like Tillman, Briggs was prepared to turn the page on his Bears career until Black Monday changed everything.
This new era for the Bears has to remind Briggs of his old era in Chicago. Under head coach Lovie Smith there was a focus on defense and running the ball. When John Fox was hired, he echoed those same principles.
Fox is a veteran, well respected, professional football coach that has seen a lot of success in the NFL and Briggs feels he has something to offer the 2015 Chicago Bears, even if they change to a 3-4.
"I can play in a 3-4," said Briggs, one of the best linebackers in team history. "It depends on the way that it's run. There's guys that run it as a two-gap system 3-4 and there's guys that run it as a single-gap system 3-4."
Recent pictures of Briggs has him looking a big bigger than his preferred playing weight, but at 34, he may have changed his work out regimen. With his 13th season looming, he'll probably have to get in the best shape of his life, add some strength, fully rehab his groin, and prove to which ever team talks to him about the 2015 season, that 2014 was more about the failings of Tucker and his vanilla schemes than it was about Briggs quitting on the season.
I do agree with Briggs however, that he could play inside. He wouldn't need to cover as much ground as he did as a weakside OLB in a 4-3 and diagnosing -- and stuffing -- a run play was always something he was good at.
If I were to wager a guess, I'd say that neither Briggs or Tillman will return in 2015, but that's something GM Ryan Pace will need to decide.
There are a lot of holes on Chicago's roster and not everything can be filled via the draft. The Bears will look over the available free agents, weigh the salary/productivity of all prospects, and decide the best course of action.
Even though I don't think either will return, it wouldn't surprise me to see one of, if not both, veterans back in Chicago.
What do you guys think? Weigh in on the poll and elaborate in the comment section.
For more on Tillman, check out this recent Fanpost, On the Future of Charles Tillman.