- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jay Cutler's new seven-year contract will not prevent the Chicago Bears from attempting to re-sign veteran unrestricted free agent quarterback Josh McCown, team general manager Phil Emery confirmed Thursday.
Because the team inked McCown to a one-year contract with the veteran league minimum last March, the Bears cannot officially sign the quarterback to a new deal until the beginning of the league year on March 11.
However, the Bears do own the exclusive negotiating rights to McCown for the next two months and can present the 34-year old quarterback with contract offers during that period. The two sides have the ability to agree to a deal in principle, if McCown decides to forego testing the open market in free agency.
"Love to have Josh back," Emery said. "I've expressed that to him. Josh, through his play, has earned the right to have choices. And he'll have a lot of them. He does know that he has a home here and we'll do everything that we can to make it work, if he decides he still wants to play here.
"Hey, I'm very respectful of Josh. He's a tremendous human being. He did a great job for the Chicago Bears. He deserves to have those choices and he deserves the space and room to make them."
McCown had the best season on his 11-year NFL career in 2013, going 3-2 as a starter and completing 149-of-224 passes for 1,829 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception for a quarterback rating of 109.0. McCown was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 348-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Bears' 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys before returning to the bench for the final three weeks of the regular season.
"I know the guys in the locker room are really hoping to have No. 12 back next year," Cutler said.