After suffering his third season-ending injury in as many years, Charles Tillman became an afterthought for the Panthers and other teams in free agency. It turns out the market isn't too hot for a 35 year old corner coming off a torn ACL, and for good reason. However, after the loss of Josh Norman and Brandon Boykin; the Panthers’ cornerback situation sits on the brink of disaster. The most experienced corners on the roster in Robert McClain and Bené Benwikere have combined for 27 career starts. Behind them lies a depth of young, raw, and unproven talent that may or may not be ready to make an impact in the NFL. The Panthers need a man to lead by example, a technician who can give insight on how to play the corner position in the modern era. Enter Charles Tillman.
What he can bring as a player?
Tillman was another good Dave Gettleman signing last postseason. After coming in cheap on a one year deal, Tillman had a respectable season starting across from All-Pro Josh Norman. In 12 regular season games, Tillman’s statistics read as follow: 55 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus Tillman finished among the top 20 cornerbacks in run stop percentage, and as the NFL’s 54th best corner overall. He could still play football at a decent level last season, but a torn ACL to end his year does not put a lot of faith in his old legs. He seems to be attacking the recovery phase with dedication, and I certainly wouldn't want to be the one to suggest hanging up his cleats.
What he can bring as a coach?
The Panthers’ front office could have very well eliminated bringing back Tillman as a player for next season, but I believe they should entertain the thought of letting him return as a coach. Though Carolina already has a great defensive backs coach in Steve Wilks, Tillman would be a great addition to the staff and a welcoming face for the players. Tillman’s signature move, the “Peanut Punch,” was a big hit last year and led to 24 forced fumbles over the regular season. With so many young cornerbacks, the Panthers may need an extra guy or two that can help players after practice. A mentor to give his free time and help them perfect the nuances of the game; Charles Tillman would be perfect in that role.
Charles Tillman recently stated that he would only want to play for the Panthers if he were to play next season. That statement is really indicative of the kind of organization Jerry Richardson has created. Though I would really like to see Tillman get that chance as a player, there are currently no signs of this happening. My best bet would be Carolina bringing him back for a job on the coaching staff. I would keep my eyes on the younger corners during training camp in preseason however, their struggles could lead to a veteran signing. Though I’d prefer free agent Leon Hall, it would warm my heart to see Tillman get one last shot as a Carolina Panther.
By Grant Hughes
Follow Grant on Twitter @KenjonVander