The two-time Pro Bowler (2011, 2012) and 2012 All-Pro cornerback Charles Tillman told Kyle Meinke of MLive.com that he would be open to joining the Detroit Lions, despite being in the same division as the Chicago Bears, who Tillman has played for since 2003.
“That would be a little weird or awkward,” Tillman told Meinke, “but in the end, you’re there to win for the current team you’re playing for, because they’re the one paying your checks. So you go out there and try to win.”
After 11 years playing in the NFL, Tillman will test the free agency for the first time in his career. He was selected by the Bears with the 35th pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He played in college at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he started all four years at cornerback.
Since being drafted, Tillman has disrupted wide receivers for the Bears after becoming a starter his rookie year. He recorded a solid 84 tackles with four interceptions in his rookie season, and now his career totals are 848 tackles, 36 interceptions, 42 forced fumbles and three sacks. Tillman has also made a huge impact off the field, winning the Ed Block Courage award in 2009 , the Walter Payton NFL Player of the Year in 2013, and the Salute to Service award in 2012.
Tillman will turn 33 this month; he did have a problems with injuries last season, suffering a torn right tricep in Week 10 against the Lions, and was forced to miss the rest of the season after being placed on injured reserve. If Tillman becomes healthy once training camp starts, he would surely provide an upgrade for the Lions at the corner position for the short term.
The Lions had a number of injuries at the cornerback position last season, as well as disappointing efforts and results from the players. Darius Slay and Bill Bentley have yet to prove themselves as reliable corners, Chris Houston was a liability against some of the best wide receivers in the league, and Rashean Mathis will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Detroit does have the No. 10 pick in this year’s draft, adding on to the possibility that the team may focus on the position by selecting either Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State or Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State. Despite the upside with acquiring a young and talented prospect, the Lions have been known to not develop cornerbacks well enough to fit into their defensive scheme during former head coach Jim Schwartz‘s tenure.
Signing a seasoned veteran will also help the Lions with cap space, as they will be able to sign Tillman for much less than his $8 million contract he had with the Bears last season. It will also be valuable for the Lions to have a shutdown corner that can provide help in the passing game, as the team finished 23rd in total passing yards allowed with 246.9 per game.