The cornerback position for the Bears was solid since acquiring the tandem of Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. However, no one escapes age, and Man of the Year Award-winning corner Tillman is reaching the dreaded mid-thirties and may be leaving his prime.
After locking up Jennings last month to a four-year extension, the focus turned toward Tillman who is entering free agency at 33, recovering from a triceps injury that sidelined him for most of the season. When asked in an interview on The McNeil and Spiegal Show on 670 The Score this month, the career Bear stressed the idea of finances between the two parties.
"I know they want me back," he said. "I think it’s a matter of finances and everything working out.”
But what if it doesn't work out and Tillman exits Chicago's locker rooms to play in a different uniform? The front office may already foresee this happening which is backed up by the team's signing of undrafted Texas Southern prospect Derricus Purdy last week.
Purdy is only a depth signing and would be an enormous gamble for an already historically bad Bears defense if he and the current depth players are supposed to replace the production of the turnover-forcing machine of Tillman. Instead, the team can go in a different direction and start even younger.
With the No. 14 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bears could select Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State if he's still on the board.
Regarded as the No. 1 cornerback prospect for most analysts, Dennard brings physicality to a Bears defense that lacked intimidation last year. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound defender ran a 4.52 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine and contributed to a No. 3 Michigan State team that posted one of the best defenses in the nation and a win in the Rose Bowl, dethroning undefeated rival Ohio State in the process.
Dennard won the Jim Thorpe Award for the country's best defensive back and was a unanimous first-team All-American, both honors being firsts in school history. He was also the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, was on the First-Team All-Big Ten team, was ESPN.com's Big Ten Defensive MVP and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy for the nation's best defensive player.
The senior Spartan totaled 167 tackles, 20 passes defended, three forced fumbles and 10 interceptions in 44 career games, 40 of which were starts. He only allowed three receptions on 31 attempts by an opponent of 15 yards or more.
However, the coveted prospect is a target of other teams like the division-rival Lions who hold the No. 10 selection and Rams who sit one pick ahead of Chicago. However, these two teams may decide to choose one of the gifted receivers in this year's deep draft.
If Dennard could land in Chicago, he would fit perfectly as an intimidating force on Soldier Field's cold, snowy ground on the opposite side of Jennings and help lockup some of the NFC North's dangerous receiving corps.