Lovie Smith to Tampa Bay looms as factor with Bears free agents

Lovie Smith to Tampa Bay looms as factor with Bears free agents
January 1, 2014, 10:30 pm
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Lovie Smith moving in as head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers puts at least one very interesting new matchup on the Bears’ 2014 schedule. It may be more than one.

The Bucs are making over their front office, meaning that personnel decisions will not be playing out just yet. But Tampa Bay suddenly becomes a potential factor in some decisions being made by Bears players.

[RELATED: Lovie Smith to become next Bucs coach]

Cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are unrestricted free agents, and both were strong believers in the Lovie Smith defense as well as the Lovie Smith Way. Both defensive backs are longshots to return to Chicago, Tampa Bay immediately projects as a likely strong consideration for both, even with a secondary that includes Darrelle Revis and Johnathan Banks at corners and Mark Barron at safety.

[MORE: Report: Former Bears DC Marinelli to be defensive coordinator with Bucs]

The intriguing scenarios extend beyond the secondary. The Bears are expected to seek another significant contract adjustment with Julius Peppers. Smith was instrumental personally in bringing Julius Peppers to the Bears back in 2010. Peppers’ preference may be to decline a restructuring, take his release and play again for Smith, in whose scheme he netted 8, 11 and 11.5 sacks in 2010-12.

Money generally overrides allegiances. But with veterans who already have had substantial NFL paydays, more than just the paycheck will be getting consideration.