Thursday, Chicago Bears fans had a reason to be a bit more excited about the team’s offseason. The NFL chose to raise the salary cap to roughly $130 million instead of the previously-anticipated amount of around $126.7 million. For a team entering the offseason with $7.6 million to work with and more than 20 players potentially heading to free agency, this was fantastic news.
Of course, as I’ve written previously, defensive end Julius Peppers is likely going to be released and will free up quite a bit, as his cap number for 2014 is just over $18 million. The wiggle room Chicago now has after the cap was raised will only increase after Peppers sees the door — obviously, barring any major surprise.
One of the players at the top of the Bears’ priority list figures to be cornerback Charles Tillman, who will enter the 2014 season as a 33-year old veteran that missed a lot of time last year due to a torn triceps.
Tillman’s impending free agency is a topic that many Bears fans seem to be split on. Some would like to move in a younger direction, using the extra money elsewhere on defense. Others, like myself, believe that Tillman should be back. With the room that was created this week, Chicago would be smart to bring back one of their leaders in Tillman.
Will general manager Phil Emery fork over a hefty contract? Absolutely not; but, Tillman and the Bears could most definitely come to an agreement on a two or three year deal that works out on both ends. Head coach Marc Trestman certainly would like to see Tillman back and had this to say about him on Thursday:
“It’s certainly important. Charles is an extremely unique guy. From the standpoint that he is Man of the Year in the National Football League No. 1, it just goes to his character and his personality and his leadership skills and he’s a terrific football player. He played very well certainly when he was healthy.”
The biggest reason why Tillman is still an important figure on the defense is, simply put: Turnovers. “Peanut,” as they call him, is a player who consistently takes the ball away. It’s what he does. It’s who he is. You cannot change that about him, no matter how old he is.
No defensive back has forced more fumbles since Tillman came into the league as a pro than the man himself — 42, to be exact.
The leadership that Tillman brings to the Bears’ defense is also something that cannot have a dollar amount placed on it. If Tillman comes into next year healthy, I see no reason why the Bears wouldn’t want him out there for another year or two — especially because one of their biggest priorities is to begin taking the ball away at a rapid rate once more. Tillman gives you just that.
I would not be shocked if Chicago works out a deal worth something along the lines of $3-$5 million per year. Last season, Tillman’s salary was just under $8 million and his cap number was the biggest it has ever been at exactly $8 million. He said it himself, he guarantees he will retire a Chicago Bear. However, will Emery and the front office be able to grant his request?
A season ago, it was Brian Urlacher who was asked to take a 75 percent pay cut and walked. How will Emery handle Tillman? We’ll soon find out, but I believe Tillman could be back after the Bears make moves to clear even more cap space.