Ever since cornerback Charles Tillman was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he has been a fan favorite in the Windy City. Whether it’s because of his penchant for forcing fumbles by using a move known as the “Peanut Punch,” or his flair for dramatic interceptions, Tillman has been a source of pride for Bears fans during his 11 years in the league.
After missing a vast majority of the 2013 season with torn triceps, Tillman finds himself in unfamiliar territory: impending free agency. His contract with the Bears is up, and even though the team re-signed Jay Cutler, Matt Slauson, and Tim Jennings to lucrative extensions, Tillman wasn’t locked up by the team following the season.
For now, Tillman is biding his time and doing some travelling, and he talked about all of that and more with 670 the Score (and NBC Chicago’s) Laurence Holmes on Wednesday night.
In a wide ranging interview that touched on topics like movies (Tillman recommended “12 Years a Slave”), visiting Anne Frank’s home in Europe, or driving a minivan on the world-famous Autobahn in Germany, Tillman was in a festive mood during the entire interview.
The duo did talk some football too, and Tillman was straight forward when it came to whether or not he wanted to be a Bear next season.
“In a perfect world, I will finish as a Bear,” he told Holmes. “I guarantee that I will retire as a Chicago Bear. I guarantee that.”
While Tillman did not specify whether that meant that he would sign a one-day contract with the team at the end of his career or meant that he wanted to stay and play with the Bears next season wasn’t answered, but the cornerback also addressed his negotiating situation with the team.
“Yeah, I talk to them every day,” he said. “I’ll put it to you like this: the Bears and I are in good spirits. There’s no bad blood. There’s no bad blood between me and Marc Trestman. We are all on good terms.”
Those words are a bit of a contrast to what Tillman told reporters the day after the season ended with a heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. “I have some options,” he said. “I have some thoughts. I have some decisions that I have to make (about) what’s best for myself and my family and my football career.”
There are a couple of questions that need to be answered before the determination can be made about whether or not Tillman will stay in Chicago. The first and most pertinent question is one of money. The Bears aren’t exactly swimming in salary cap space right now, and it isn’t fair to assume that Tillman would take less money to remain with the team.
Secondly, even if Tillman is willing to take a lower contract than he could potentially get elsewhere, the question arises of whether or not Tillman even wants to be part of a defensive rebuilding process that will likely see massive changes in both scheme and personnel. If the Bears abandon the Tampa-2 and adopt a hybrid defense, combining elements of both a 4-3 and a 3-4 system, then the team could expect their cornerbacks to play a lot of press man defense, and that isn’t exactly Tillman’s forte. Would he be willing to adapt to that system, or would he want to play in an environment more conducive to his style?
Those are some serious questions to consider, but there is one thing for certain: with the acrimony that surrounds Brian Urlacher’s relationship with the Bears following his retirement, it will be interesting to see if Tillman follows through with his promises of good spirits and retiring as a Bear even if the team elects to part ways with him.