Monday, the Chicago Bears finally released troublesome defensive tackle Terry Johnson. Johnson, a second round draft pick in 2004 from Washington University, was selected right after Tommie Harris (1st Round, 14th overall). He had problems in college and slipped to the second round to GM Jerry Angelo. Two different defensive linemen in terms of talent and character. It was fitting for Johnson to get the boot he deserved. It was time for the nonsense to stop for a team that’s gearing up for another championship run. He is a quick, pass-rushing DT, who also rushes to get into more crime related trouble. He is not worth keeping because of his continued off-field issues, that could’ve hindered the team down the road in the ’07 season. The Bears will move on better from this situation, as they did last year and as they do in most situations (Briggs and Jones), they were just simply tired of his act. They will stay strong and make sure the defensive line is set for battle. He will likely be replaced by former Oklahoma teammate of Tommie Harris – Dusty Dvorachek (3rd round.) Johnson wishes the best for the Bears and his friends. I’m sure he will get picked up by Cincinnati, where he would fit in just well (don’t hold your breath.) Early source says Dallas is considering signing him. I’m sure everyone would like to put this story on the shelf with all the other unimportant books (stories) that will stay their to rest and pick up dust. No one wants to hear anymore about this former Bear. Being released was the best move for both sides.
Now to move on to the more important story, as Nathan Vasher signed his name to a five year deal. This contract extension was well worth the wait. Vasher was pursuing a new deal last year before camp started, and he did the right thing in being patient, as he stated before the start of camp in ’06, “For the time being,” Vasher said, “I have to be content with my position.” This three-year pro has been a consistent starter at the cornerback position. Coming out of Texas, they nicknamed him “ESPN3”, for all his highlight film plays. His career has been all that and then some; he is a record-holder, (108 return from missed FG, tied with teammate Devin Hester) pro-bowler, and an integral part for a top defense for all three years played in the league. Vasher has recorded 16 interceptions in three years, to go along with 333 interception return yards, and three touchdowns. This former fourth round pick, who slipped because of bad combine results, won’t’wow’ you with the 4.3 lightning-quick speed nor impress with his stature, standing at just a mere 5 foot 10 inch height. Coming into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder, he let’s his play on the field, not the combine turf in Indianapolis, do the talking for itself. At 180 pounds, Vasher is small for a defensive back but that does not prevent him from shutting down wide receviers that include names like Marvin Harrison (SB XLI), Donald Driver, and Lee Evans, just to name a few featured wideouts. He is a playmaker that the Bears have made a good investment with. He is a perfect fit for the Cover-2 defense that makes the Bears secondary a strong point for the team. In his three year tenure with Chicago (missing only two games), Nate has made more plays then a betting man, but don’t call him a gambler on D because he is a surety at the right cornerback spot. He is sound in technique and has great hands. He puts games away with late interception returns for touchdowns as shown in ’04 and ’05 against the 49ers and Packers (vs. Favre in the fourth quarter.)
Now with him signed for years to come the Bears are looking to give physical, former second round Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Charles Tillman a new deal. This tandem on both sides of the field at defensive back is one of the reasons the Bears’ defense is making plays at a premium. It was earlier thought that they would lose one of these two pro-bowl corners to free agency next year. They now have the capability to lock both corners up and keep them in Chicago for more than half a decade. Tillman is more of a physical, man-to-man, bump and run defensive back. He is the opposite of Nate Vasher and relies on his strength. He does not have instincts and natural ablility to intercept passes like Vasher, but he is better in the run department and in containing bigger WR’s like Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, and Roy Williams. He can hold his own against the best, but has trouble with speedier receviers like Steve Smith (’06 Divisional Playoffs.) He rebounded last year with a strong performance throughtout the regular season and playoffs. Tillman, a Chicago native, has picked off 14 passes in four seasons and has racked up over 300 tackles, usually ranking third on the team behind ‘backers Urlacher and Briggs. He has rolled into the endzone two times during his career, including a game winner versus Detroit in a 2005 overtime struggle. Charles has been a starter since his great play against Minnesota in the endzone, ripping the football from Moss for an interception, to seal a victory in 2003. He is a key player who makes his career in covering the best in the game. He is nicknamed “Peanut”, and if Vasher and Tillman continue to do their part playing at an all-pro level, then they can give Vasher the nickname “Butter”, for his smooth covering skills. In getting Tillman’s deal done soon, it would mark another good move by the Bears front office and it will provide Head Coach Lovie Smith and new defensive coordinator Bob Babich with an elite 1-2 punch to stay, in the Bears secondary.