Chicago Bears veteran cornerback Charles Tillman had a down season in a contract year, and he can blame a few injuries that caused him to miss about half the year and play at a subpar level when he was on the field. The Bears aren’t expected to keep the fan favorite this offseason, so there’s plenty of speculation as to where the 33-year-old CB will land. Most of the smoke links Tillman to Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but I don’t think the move makes as much sense as people make it out to be. Yes, Tillman is a good player and is familiar with Smith, but the Buccaneers already have plenty invested in superstar corner Darrelle Revis, and last year’s second-round pick Johnthan Banks showed plenty of promise. Signing Tillman wouldn’t be a bad option, but I don’t see it happening with Revis locked in (and I definitely don’t see Tampa trading him away).
So what are some landing spots that make more sense? I’ve decided to come up with a shortlist of four, though there are other potential fits out there for “Peanut” Tillman.
1. Minnesota Vikings
It would be weird to see Tillman playing for an NFC North rival, but he stated that he’s open to signing with anyone, even if his preference has always been to remain a Bear “lifer”. Since that doesn’t look like a likelihood at this point, Tillman’s main goal has to be to acquire as much money as possible in what will likely be his final payday. The Vikings certainly have the cap space and the need at corner to give a competitive offer for him, but Tillman’s age and below-average 2013 campaign will prevent him from getting a truly nice paycheck.
I’m sure the Vikings would rather sign a young, better corner like Alterraun Verner in free agency, and they have the money to sign Verner to the mega-deal that he’s vying for. But if Verner- or another CB of his quality on the market- signs elsewhere or is deemed too pricey by GM Rick Spielman, then Tillman wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize. The Vikings have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, and they are especially poor at corner with the likes of Chris Cook and Josh Robinson. Cook has stated his interest in re-signing with the Vikings this year, but I highly doubt the interest is mutual. If it is, Cook would only get a one-year deal and wouldn’t start, as the perennial disappointment should only be viewed as a reclamation project at this point.
2. Oakland Raiders
If the Raiders can’t re-sign or tag Lamarr Houston, then their biggest need will undoubtedly be at defensive end, though that need could be filled by pulling Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack with the fifth pick in the draft. And even if the Raiders decide to sign a DE in free agency if Houston leaves (I think they’ll end up keeping Houston, but it would still make sense to go after a better DE opposite of him), they have so much cap space that they can aggressively fill the other massive needs on their roster.
The Raiders defense was arguably the least talented in the NFL last season, and that makes sense given the amount of money they had invested in the position- peanuts. Although they might want a younger corner than Tillman, he would likely come cheaper than the other CBs and would immediately be a solid starter and a significant upgrade for this team. If Houston is retained, then corner would become their biggest need.
3. Washington Redskins
If Aqib Talib hits the open market, then the Washington Redskins would probably go hard after the New England Patriots No. 1 CB. But at this point, it looks like Talib has a higher chance of sticking around in Foxboro than leaving, and there’s no guarantee that the Redskins would sign Talib if he hits the free agent waters. Even though the Redskins threw a significant sum of money at veteran CB DeAngelo Hall in order to keep him around, their secondary is so poor that they could still use another corner (as well as a safety, of course). Tillman might not be at the top of the Redskins list, but you have to think that he is a logical candidate for them as a starting corner in free agency. I mean, he had a monstrous 2012 campaign, and the vast majority of his struggles in 2013 can be attributed to nagging injuries. Of course, those injuries are red flags that teams will need to watch closely for, but his age and injuries also drive his price tag down.
4. Indianapolis Colts
I would be surprised if the Indianapolis Colts aren’t able to re-sign Vontae Davis, because they have a ridiculous amount of cap space and a ridiculous amount of need to keep a corner of Davis’s caliber. If the Colts aren’t able to keep Davis around, then they would have a massive hole at the position with Greg Toler as their only other adequate CB on the roster. Davis is a fringe-elite CB in this league, and I’m sure Ryan Grigson will do whatever it takes to keep him in Indy.
That said, neither Toler nor Davis are locks to stay with the Colts, even though most indications are there that the Colts will re-sign Davis and don’t intend to cut Toler. While I view Toler as a quality starter in this league, others have soured on him due to his price tag and a groin injury that caused him to miss a large chunk of time last season. When he was absent, the Colts pass defense fell apart, and that’s an indictment of just how poor the Colts depth is at corner. If they lose either one of their starting CBs, then they would definitely need to go after a corner. Could Tillman be the answer? I think so, especially since Toler is more likely to leave. And if you look at Toler’s price tag, he’s set to make $9.25 million over the next two seasons. I think Tillman would make about that much money on a two-year deal, and this makes a Tillman-Colts move look even more feasible.