For this free agent signing by the Carolina Panthers, and all signings from this point forward, we will be breaking the move down into four categories. Each category is worth up to 25 points and a final grade will be handed out based on the total score. These are the definitions of each category:
Player- How has the player produced to this point in his career? Where does he rank among other players at his position?
Team Fit- How does he fit within the offensive or defensive scheme?
Team Need- Is this position a weak spot on the roster? Does this move strengthen the position?
Contract- Is this a reasonable contract based on production? Did the team over spend or did they get a steal?
Score: 15 out of 25
Charles Tillman has put together an impressive NFL career after being drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. In 12 seasons with Chicago he has 857 tackles, 42 forced fumbles, 36 interceptions, eight defensive touchdowns and 133 passes defended. He appeared in one Super Bowl in 2006, was selected to two Pro Bowls in 2011 and 2012 and won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award in 2013. The list of accomplishments for Tillman is certainly long.
The biggest concern with the cornerback comes down to how much he has left in the tank. He will be 34 years of age at the start of the season and is coming off two injury plagued seasons. After missing 14 games in his first 10 years in the league, he missed 22 the past two seasons. Both seasons were cut short due to a torn tricep muscle and he actually tore the same muscle both times.
Score: 24 out of 25
In terms of fit, Charles Tillman is perfect for this defense and had some of his best years playing under Ron Rivera in Chicago. The Panthers’ head coach was Tillman’s defensive coordinator in Chicago from 2004 to 2006. The last two seasons Rivera was with the Bears, Tillman averaged 87 tackles, five interceptions and 15 passes defended each season.
At 6-2, 198 pounds Tillman is a big cornerback that fits in perfectly on the outside in this defense. He has the size to match up well against some of the bigger wide receivers in the NFC South.
Score: 21 out of 25
Last year’s rookie Bene Benwikere played well on the outside the second half of the season however he looks much better suited as a nickelback in this defense. The addition of Tillman, as long as he is healthy, allows the Panthers to move players into positions that plays to their strengths.
The other need the Panthers fill with Tillman is a veteran presence at the cornerback position. The team doesn’t have a single player at the position with more than three years of experience in the league. Josh Norman and Melvin White will be entering their third seasons, while Benwikere and Carrington Byndom will be entering their second. A veteran like Tillman could be a good leader for this group.
Score: 21 out of 25
According to Spotrac, the Panthers and Charles Tillman agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.05 million. The length of contract is perfect for a player like Tillman who is getting up there in age and is coming off two injury-shortened seasons.
The reason the team didn’t get a perfect score was the salary over three million seems a little high for a player like Tillman. It really remains to be seen how much he will be able to contribute in the upcoming season. He seems to be an unknown commodity at this point in his career, especially considering he has played only 10 games the past two seasons.
Score: 81 out of 100
When the Panthers missed out on Alan Ball, the market for cornerback seemed rather bleak. Charles Tillman certainly made sense because of his connection with Ron Rivera from his time in Chicago but it remained to be seen if the team wanted to take a chance on the aging veteran.
If he is able to stay healthy, this will be a great move considering he is a big cornerback that can play outside and can be a leader at this position. The problem is the fact that he has had trouble to stay healthy the past two seasons and may not be the Pro Bowl caliber cornerback from three seasons ago.
The front office has done a good job to mitigate the risk with it only being a one-year deal but the addition of Tillman should not stop them from looking to add another player to the mix through the NFL Draft.