The Chicago Bears decided to exercise their prerogative and sign defensive back Charles “Peanut” Tillman to a one-year deal while cutting ties with defensive end Julius Peppers. For some fans letting Peppers walk was a shock. But in essence the Bears did the right thing picking “Peanut” Tillman over Peppers.
Traditionally, the NFL free agency period is a frenzied time. Major wheeling and dealing and huge dollars are tossed around. However, Bears General Manager Phil Emery has moved with a precise and calculated pace. The Bears front office has a plan and they are working it. Peppers is 34 years old and recorded only 7.5 sacks last season. That’s his lowest since a 2.5 campaign in 2007. Even though he followed that all time low with 14.5 sacks the next year, the odds of Peppers hitting those numbers again are low. More disconcerting than Peppers advancing age is the obvious lack of “pep” he played with last year. One of the first things to go for a pass rusher is the first step. Routinely, last season Peppers first move was met with a human wall. His ability to overwhelm offensive linemen seemed like a thing of the past.
Almost immediately Green Bay swooped in to make Peppers a Packer (Try saying that fast, ten times). Peppers signed a three-year deal early Saturday. The Packers hope to their bolster their anemic sack attack. Even with his 7.5 sacks, Peppers still would have led the Packers last year.
On the other hand, when the Bears signed Tillman to a $3.5 million, one-year deal, it made total sense and will help the Bears get back to respectability on defense. Tillman was hampered by injuries all last season.
The deal works for both sides. The Bears get a respected leader that can still play at a somewhat high level and Tillman gets to show the league that he is still a viable player should he decided to test free agency in 2015. The leadership that Tillman brings is an intangible that every coach in the league covets. Losing Tillman would have left a gaping whole in an already porous Bears defense.
The Bears were historically bad on defense last year especially in the secondary (Chris Conte is still trying to figure out how to tackle opposing players). Losing a leader like Tillman would have doomed the Bears to missing the playoffs for another year.
Another big factor to the Tillman and Peppers decisions were the $18.5 million dollar hit Peppers would have cost the Bears against the salary cap. That much money for an aging, slower player just didn’t make sense. For the money alone the Bears did right to pick Tillman over Peppers.
The Bears have signed MD Jennings and Ryan Mundy at safety in an attempt to give them depth. These signings will not create a splash. Neither is a star. They are just solid grinders, ready to attack the ball. That may be all the Bears need to make the playoffs next season. With an offense that can score 30 points a game, they simply need to be serviceable on the “d-side” of the ball. When it comes to free agency, teams have to be highly selective of the players they sign. The Bears decisions so far have shown them to be picky eaters when selecting “Peanut” over Peppers.
Editorial by Tony Bowers