Thursday, January 30, 2014
Bears position outlook: Cornerback
By Jeff Dickerson
Free agents: Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis and Kelvin Hayden.
The good: Tim Jennings earned a return trip to the Pro Bowl and a new four-year, $22.4 million contract after he led the defense with four interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Before he suffered a season-ending triceps injury, Tillman had three picks and three forced fumbles. Bowman, who replaced Tillman in the starting lineup for the final seven weeks, had two interceptions and a pick-six in a pivotal win over the Cleveland Browns. Second-year nickel back Isaiah Frey made 62 tackles despite playing some of the year with a broken hand. The Bears' pass defense was by far the strength of the unit in 2013. McManis was second on the team with 15 special teams tackles.
The bad: Losing a player of Tillman’s caliber would hurt any team. Bowman did an admirable job stepping in for the two-time Pro Bowler, but Tillman is a turnover machine. His playmaking ability was missed. Hayden, who began training camp as the starting nickel back, went on injured reserve during the preseason.
The money (2014 salary cap figures): Jennings is scheduled to count $7.5 million against the cap next year, per the terms of his new deal. Frey, a 2012 sixth-round draft choice, will eat up only $495,000 worth of space in 2014. It’s unclear what the Bears plan to offer Tillman in free agency, but it will likely be far less than the $8,001,575 he made last season.
Draft priority: The Bears do have a couple of young cornerbacks on their offseason roster (C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst), but with Tillman, Bowman, McManis and Hayden all in-line to test the market, general manager Phil Emery would be justified in selecting a cornerback in the draft. Bowman is another versatile veteran who can be re-signed for close to the league minimum.