Bears sign Tillman to one-year deal

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By Rich Campbell, Tribune reporter

Charles Tillman and the Chicago Bears agreed to terms on one-year contract Friday, ensuring the star cornerback remains part of a defense in transition under second-year coach Marc Trestman.

The deal brings Tillman, 33, back for his 12th year with the club and could enable him to finish his storied career with the Bears, which he desires. Financial terms were not immediately available.

“Charles is one of the NFL’s great players and a true leader on and off the field and we’re happy he will be staying in Chicago,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said in a statement released by the team. “He remains the best in our game at forcing turnovers and always has brought a tough, physical presence to our secondary. Charles also has a special connection to the people and community across Chicago and we’re excited for that to continue.”
Tillman explored his options on the open market, including a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday, following an injury-marred 2013 season. The Bears, meanwhile, seemed prepared to move on without him as part of their mission to get younger on defense.

Tillman, a two-time Pro Bowler, was hindered by knee pain early last season before a torn right triceps sidelined him for the final seven games. But the Bears ultimately sought to retain the franchise’s all-time defensive touchdowns leader as part of their quest to re-establish a vaunted playmaking defense.
He had three interceptions and forced three fumbles in eight games last season. His return keeps intact a cornerback tandem including veteran Tim Jennings. Jennings, 30, on Jan. 2 re-signed on a four-year, $22.4 million deal that included $11.8 million guaranteed.

Given Tillman’s age, it would still make sense for the Bears to target a cornerback in what Emery considers a deep draft class at the position. The Bears hold the 14th-overall pick.
Tillman’s 36 interceptions rank third on the franchise’s all-time list behind Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Pettibon (37). The fan favorite also is an established community servant. He won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award on Jan. 31.

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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