- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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While whispers exist about the Chicago Bears inching closer to a new contract for quarterback Jay Cutler, the reality is it's not yet time for that, and Tuesday a source close to Cutler indicated as much.
With Cutler's current contract running through the 2013 season, it's likely the team won't address prospects for a new deal in earnest -- provided he performs -- until sometime in the offseason, which would prevent him from going into his final season as a lame duck.
The source close to the quarterback said the sides haven't even yet broached the topic of a new contract, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering Cutler has two years -- counting 2012 – remaining on the deal.
Bears general manager Phil Emery discussed the situation on Aug. 14, and pointed to the team's policy of declining to discuss contracts.
Emery called Cutler a "franchise-level quarterback" but said "any and all contracts will be kept private."
"I think that is a very private issue between a club and player, and will remain that way," Emery said.
Scheduled to earn $7.7 million in base salary for 2012, Cutler could wind up in a contract negotiation as difficult as the one Matt Forte just experienced before signing his new deal.
The Bears also have to decide what to do with Brian Urlacher, whose contract expires at the end of this season.
In three seasons with Cutler as the starting quarterback, the Bears have produced only one winning season, with 2011 going down as somewhat of a wash since he missed six games with a thumb injury.
Cutler has thrown for 63 touchdowns and 49 interceptions in three seasons with the Bears, so it's still unclear how the club plans to proceed with a potential long-term deal.
Before the Forte signing in July, the Bears had approximately $13 million of cap room for 2013, and more than $50 million for 2014, which means financially, the club shouldn't have any trouble bringing back Cutler.
But the quarterback needs to produce for the organization to justify a new contract that will likely be worth more than the five-year, $49.77 million contract he signed in 2009 with $20 million guaranteed, including base salaries of $7.7 million and $8.47 million over the next two seasons. The team increased the possibility of Cutler earning a new deal by spending the offseason adding weapons for the quarterback such as receivers Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery.
Now it's time for Cutler to take care of things on his end. But as the source close to the quarterback mentioned, it's not unexpected or a concern that the sides haven't yet broached the topic of a new contract.
"If they keep him upright this season, we'll see what happens," said the source.