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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Of the 43 Chicago Bears set to hit free agency after 2013, cornerback Charles Tillman is the only one entering the season coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.
Yet that doesn't ensure a future in Chicago. Just look at what happened to franchise icon Brian Urlacher.
"No one is safe," Tillman said. "I am just here playing football. I've got one year; do my year and be done. If they want to bring me back, they'll bring me back. If not, go somewhere else. That is kind of the reality of it."
Tillman signed an extension in July 2007, and his deal carried cap numbers of a little more than $23 million total over the first four years of the back-loaded contract. Over the past three years, however, Tillman's deal resulted in cap charges of $6.4 million, $7.9 million and $8 million.
"They back-load all that because they don't expect a guy to be here," Tillman said. "So kudos to them back-loading and kudos to me playing well."
Given the team's salary-cap issues coming into training camp, it was expected the team would try to do an extension with Tillman to provide some cap relief. The team preferred to stand pat. He'll receive a base salary of $7.95 million and count $8 million against the cap.
Despite Tillman's age (32), he's playing arguably the best football of his career, which has enabled him to quietly gain a reputation as one of the league's top defensive players.
Tillman ranks No. 3 in franchise history with 33 interceptions and holds team records for defensive touchdowns (nine) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (8).
Asked whether he deserved the security provided by a new contract, Tillman said: "I don't know, man."
"That's just business. My fate is in their hands as far as what they want to do with me," he said. "Whether they keep me, hey, [that's fine]. If not, so be it. I'm just here to play football."