According to Adam Schefter of NFL Netowrk, the team signed cornerback Nathan Vasher to a five-year, $28 million extension, with $14 million in guaranteed money. Vasher, a fourth-round pick in 2004, had been campaigning for a new deal for more than a year. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2008. The new deal replaces the $850,000 in base salary he was scheduled to make in 2007.
Schefter also reports that the Bears plan to extend the contract of cornerback Charles Tillman, who also is slated to hit the open market in March. Tillman was a second-round pick in 2003 and is due to make $3.545 million in base salary this season. If Tillman gets signed to a long-term deal, the franchise tag would be available next year for use a second time on linebacker Lance Briggs. If, however, Briggs reports by Week Ten, his one-year tender would cost at least $8.64 million in 2008.
The willingness of the Bears to pay a bunch of money to cornerbacks is highly unusual, considering that the Tampa 2 defense places a greater emphasis on safety play. Corners in that system typically aren’t required to run down the field and cover speedy wideouts. Instead, they are expected to stick their nose into the pile on running plays and handle short zones in the passing game.
Indeed, the team that beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI (the Colts) also uses the Tampa Two defense, and allowed both starting corners to leave via free agency. Irony? Coincidence? Hard to say but the Bears do in fact need to sign Tillman at their earliest opportunity, as defense is the Bears’ calling card.