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Free agents-to-be ponder future

As disappointed Bears players quietly cleaned out their lockers Monday, several were asked by reporters to not only assess what went wrong in 2013 but to speculate about the future.

With 28 players due to become free agents, the 2014 team may look quite a bit different than the one that lost Sunday's winner-take-all NFC North showdown to the rival Packers.


Charles Tillman holds the Bears' all-time record for defensive touchdowns with nine.
The potential free agents include James Anderson, Zackary Bowman, Nate Collins, Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Devin Hester, Tim Jennings, Patrick Mannelly, Henry Melton, Josh McCown, Jeremiah Ratliff, Matt Slauson, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton and Major Wright.

The others are Taylor Boggs, Eben Britton, Landon Cohen, Blake Costanzo, Kelvin Hayden, Derrick Martin, Sherrick McManis, Jordan Palmer, Dante Rosario, Jonathan Scott, Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters.

Tillman has played his entire 11-year career with the Bears, but he isn't sure what the future holds.

"I've got some decisions that I have to make here in the next couple of weeks, couple of months," Tillman said. "I don't know. I'm just going to see what happens.

"It's the first time in my life that I've had to make decisions like this. But I don't know. I'm just kind of waiting to see how it plays out. I'm not stressing. I'm not worried about it. Whatever happens is going to happen. Whatever happens is going to be for the good."

Garza, who will turn 35 in March, started all 16 games at center this season, anchoring a much-improved line that helped the offense have one of the most prolific years in franchise history.

"I'm going to definitely want to come back," Garza said. "I feel like I can still play. I can still help the team by going out there and playing as good as I can, so hopefully it all works out."

The Bears ranked second in the NFL with 445 points and set team records with 6,109 total yards, 4,450 passing yards and 344 first downs in 2013. They also had two 1,000-yard receivers and one 1,000-yard rusher for just the second time in franchise history.

"You saw at times what we're able to do and to be able to finish as one of the top offenses and being able to go out there and score points," Garza said. "We've got to continue to build on that."

Wright is unsure about whether he will re-sign with the Bears.

"I have no clue," said the 2010 third-round pick from Florida. "I'm blind to the fact. This year I came in and just tried to play my hardest, do everything I could. I just hope that something happens. I'm just waiting to hear back from my people, and we'll see what happens."

Steltz has been so consumed with preparing for the season finale and then dealing with the crushing defeat that he hasn't spent any time mulling his future.

"I haven't even thought about it," Steltz said. "You're so focused on the year and just trying to finish the year strong. I hadn't even had a chance to think about it. This loss stings. It'll hurt for a while, so once you move on from that, you'll kind of start to think about the next step."

Williams hopes to return in 2014 after missing the final 10 games of the year with a chest injury. He signed with the Bears in March after spending his first nine NFL seasons with the Broncos.

"I like the team chemistry," said the veteran middle linebacker. "I like the coaching staff. I like the energy of the city. Hopefully if things work out right, I'll be back here.

"I know I still have a good amount of years left in me. I still have talent. If I don't end up here, I'll end up somewhere else, even though I would love to end up here."

Like Williams, Collins is also rebounding from an injury. The fourth-year defensive tackle tore his ACL Oct. 6 in a loss to the Saints at Soldier Field.

"I want to be in a situation that's good for me, and if it's back here and it's the right situation, then that's where I'm going to be," Collins said. "But right now, for me, I'm going to let my agent handle all that, and the only thing I can focus on is just rehabbing.

"It's going well, but I have a lot to go and I just want to be able to get it right, and wherever I'm at next year I can play well and do well for myself."

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