While the team had hoped to see Tillman's return to action in the playoffs, coach Marc Trestman revealed Monday that Tillman would not be able to return at any point this season. He joins Henry Melton, Nate Collins, D.J. Williams, and Kelvin Hayden as starting defensive players to end their seasons early via injury.
This leaves his offseason fate even more precarious, as his contract expires at season's end. Chicago is in a tough position with the salary cap, particularly if Jay Cutler is retained. His fellow cornerback, Tim Jennings, will be a free agent as well. Having such an injury-riddled season might drive Tillman's price down, but that may be for good reason. He has already out-lived the typical shelf life of a corner.
While Tillman's injury initially appeared to be yet another disaster for a decimated Bears defense, things have not gone so badly at the corner position. Zack Bowman had not exactly endeared himself with fans or the coaching staff when he last started against Green Bay in 2011, but things have changed quite significantly.
Bowman's two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, against Cleveland were just icing on the cake for an all-around good season filling in for Tillman. He and Jennings appear to make up the best-manned position on the defense, in spite of the loss of a Pro-Bowler. Many more questions lie in the rebuilt defensive line, young linebacking corps, and the two struggling safeties.
Nonetheless, Chicago misses Tillman's knack for forcing fumbles. Moving forward, Chicago will have to make tough choices about whether or not to retain their mainstay cornerback. Losing another corner to injury will hurt a great deal as well, as nobody of Bowman's ability will be waiting in the wings.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer on the Yahoo Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
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