Pro Bowl DB Vasher signs $28 million extension with Bears

Avoiding a potential crisis at cornerback, the Chicago Bears signed starting cornerback Nathan Vasher to a five-year contract extension on Monday that can be worth as much as $28 million.

Nathan Vasher


Chicago Bears


The new deal, which runs through the 2012 season, includes $14 million in guarantees. Vasher, 25, was set to enter the final year of his original rookie contract with Chicago, at a base salary of $850,000.

"It feels good. It's been a great relief," Vasher said. "I
know a lot of people have contract issues about this time. It's one
less thing I have to worry about."

Without the extension, the Pro Bowler, who signed a four-year, $1.77 million contract in 2004, would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season.

The team's other starting cornerback, Charles Tillman, is also entering the final season of his contract but is scheduled to earn a $3.545 million base salary. The Bears are into active negotiations with Tillman as well, and hope to sign him to an extension before the beginning of training camp.

It was imperative, Chicago officials felt, to get at least one of the two cornerbacks signed to an extension. One option being considered at the position was moving second-year veteran free safety Danieal Manning to cornerback. But the new deal with Vasher, and the progress being made on an extension for Tillman, might allow Manning to remain at safety.

A fourth-round choice in the 2004 draft, Vasher is one of the NFL's top cornerbacks, a far better coverage defender than most Tampa-2 style corners. The former University of Texas standout has a big-play mentality, as evidenced by his 16 interceptions in three seasons. He made the Pro Bowl last season.

In 46 games, Vasher has 120 tackles, 33 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one recovery. He has returned two of his 16 interceptions for touchdowns. Eight of his pickoffs came in the 2005 season.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.