There were many reasons for the Chicago Bears to pass on signing quarterback Jay Cutler to a huge extension, but they did it anyway.
The Bears announced that Cutler, who will turn 31 before next season, has been signed to a seven-year extension. The team also said guard Matt Slauson and cornerback Tim Jennings were signed to four-year extensions.
Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported that Cutler will make about $18 million in each of the first three years of the deal.
Cutler has played eight seasons, has never put up a rating of 90 or better in a season, and the Bears played very well with backup Josh McCown when Cutler was hurt this season. But general manager Phil Emery said he thought Cutler had his best season in 2013, that he liked Cutler's toughness and his leadership this season.
"Jay is a team guy that we feel very comfortable with moving forward in our future," Emery said.
Coach Marc Trestman also talked about Cutler's toughness and his leadership, and what he showed the team all season.
"Can he fly the plane and not be on auto pilot? I think through this process he’s proven he can do that," Trestman said. "Can he carry the weight of the team on his shoulders? He can do that.
"He’s a guy we can certainly, certainly win with."
The Bears better feel comfortable with Cutler, because he'll be their quarterback for a very long time.
Emery talked about Cutler being a proven winner, although he has started just two playoff games in his eight NFL seasons. The Bears made the playoffs in the 2010 season and won one game, but then lost to the Packers in the NFC championship at home. Chicago had a chance to win the NFC North last week, but lost to Green Bay on a Packers touchdown in the final minute.
Cutler has a great physical skill set. He has one of the best arms in the NFL, is a very good athlete and his toughness is a positive. But that hasn't translated into great results. He has 112 interceptions in 104 games. He has completed 61 percent of his passes in his career, which is average at best in the modern NFL. He played for many years behind a terrible offensive line, and has missed games in each of the last three seasons due to injury. He missed five games because of groin and ankle injuries this year.
Cutler could have been given the franchise tag, and the Bears could have gone season-to-season with him that way, or let him test free agency. But they had seen enough from him to make him the face of the franchise for many years to come.
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