COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bears quickly ended all speculation surrounding what they would do with Jay Cutler by announcing that they had signed their franchise quarterback to a new seven-year, $126 million contract.
The same man who has earned just one playoff berth during his five seasons in the Windy City, and holds an unacceptable 1-8 record against the division rival Green Bay Packers, is now the man blowing the ink dry on the largest quarterback contract in NFL history.
Cutler will have the opportunity to play his way into earning all that cabbage, but, right now, it is hard not to put his name on the list of the most overpaid quarterbacks the game has ever seen.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (seven years, $126 million)
Did the Bears overpay for Jay Cutler?
The average of the top five quarterback salaries last season was $17.4 million. Cutler is set to start earning $18 million per season in 2014 -- a higher salary than Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Cutler may be good, but the Bears are about to pay him as though he were great.
The Bears quarterback may have the strongest arm in all of football, but too often his natural ability becomes a crutch that makes him throw ill-advised passes into tight coverage that end up getting taken back the other way. In five seasons with the Bears (more like four if you take into account the 13 games he has missed due to injury), Cutler has thrown 75 picks.
But it is not all doom and gloom for the Bears' QB. Cutler may be known for throwing head-scratching interceptions from time to time, but, when the game is on the line, Cutler is routinely at his best. Chicago's QB has put together 17 game-winning drives in his career -- only one fewer than Tom Brady (18) has produced since Cutler was introduced as a starter in 2007.
This season, Cutler became the Bears' all-time leading passer with 14,913 yards passing. Cutler broke the mark previously held by Hall of Fame QB Sid Luckman; however, it only took Jay five years to break the record that Luckman needed 12 seasons to cement. Cutler has put up the numbers to backup a huge contract; he just has yet to lead the Bears where they ultimately want him to take them.
In 2010, Vick tricked the Philadelphia Eagles into believing he would be a viable franchise quarterback in only his second season removed from severing 18 months in federal prison for dog fighting. The disgraced QB played his way back into the team's favor by tossing 21 touchdowns to only six interceptions while also running in nine scores on the ground. The Eagles rewarded Vick by signing him to a six-year, $100 million contract that they would soon live to regret.
In the midst of earning $32.5 million for the first two seasons of the deal, Vick missed nine games due to injury, rushed for only two total scores, threw 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times. Philadelphia quickly reversed course on Vick and restructured his contract to what amounted to a one-year, $3.5 million deal for 2013.
Nick Foles subsequently took over as the Eagles' QB of the future, and Vick now stands on the side of the NFL freeway with his thumb sticking up, hoping another team is willing to give him a look in free agency.
If a trend has emerged it is that teams may not want to be too hasty about breaking the bank for their quarterback the second he does something right. After four slightly above-average seasons in Baltimore, Flacco put together a truly magnificent playoff run while throwing 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions and leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII victory.
Luckily, for Flacco, 2012 was a contract year and the 28-year-old translated his Super Bowl performance into a six-year, $120.6 million mega-deal. At the time, this contract was the richest total value any team had ever given a quarterback in NFL history. Flacco followed up his Super Bowl season by reverting back to his mediocre ways and throwing 19 touchdowns against 22 interceptions in 2013.
As one of the last bonus babies to cash in before the NFL went to a slotted salary system for future NFL drafts, Sam Bradford got a $50 million guaranteed contract before ever throwing a single professional pass.
Although he has shown signs of brilliance at times, this former No. 1 overall pick boasts a career QB rating of just 79.3 -- Tim Tebow's career mark is 84.9. Bradford was lost for all but seven games of 2013 after tearing his ACL. Next season will be a make-or-break season for the one-time franchise QB. The Rams could choose to cut bait and save tens of millions of dollars by dropping Bradford before the 2015 season.
When a player has been in the NFL for five seasons and his most viewed highlight involves falling face first into the backside of his own offensive lineman, it is pretty easy to guess the type of career he has had.
Sanchez has thrown 68 touchdowns to 69 interceptions but somehow managed to worm a five-year, $58.25 million contract from the New York Jets. Sanchez did not play a single snap this season due to injury, and since the $20.5 million guaranteed portion of his contract has come to an end, so too has his time in the Big Apple.
How much does one career playoff victory get you? If your name is Tony Romo, the answer to that question is $119.5 million. Owner Jerry Jones must be a thrill-seeker because this long-term deal ensures that he and the Dallas Cowboys will be riding the Romo-coster for the foreseeable future.
Although Romo is a statistical monster who is coming off of a season in which he threw 31 TDs to only 10 interceptions, the Cowboys have routinely been bounced from the playoff picture because of a late boneheaded play by their franchise quarterback.
Romo has already thrown 43 more touchdowns than Troy Aikman did during his entire career, and the 2014 season will find Romo moving into first place on the Cowboys' all-time passing yards list. But the Cowboys are paying him to be Aikman, not Dan Marino, and Aikman won Super Bowls.
Dalton Russell has covered the Chicago Bears in print and online media since 1998. He lives just outside the shadow of the iconic architecture of Soldier Field.
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