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Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Emery mum on new Cutler contract

By Michael C. Wright

Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler's contract runs through next season. Will he have a new deal by then?
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery spoke in depth Tuesday about the process of beefing up the roster to support the team's "franchise-level quarterback", but he declined to discuss a potential new contract for quarterback Jay Cutler, who in 2013 enters the final year of his deal.

"Any and all contracts will be kept private," Emery told the "Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think that is a very private issue between a club and a player, and will remain that way."

Scheduled to earn $7.7 million in base salary for 2012, Cutler missed the preseason opener Thursday night against the Denver Broncos because his fiancée, Kristin Cavallari, gave birth a day before to the couple's son.

Given the fact the team recently re-signed running back Matt Forte and will likely look to bring back middle linebacker Brian Urlacher -- whose deal expires after this season -- Cutler's potential contract could be more difficult and costly for the Bears to address.

In three seasons with Cutler at the helm, the Bears have produced only one winning season, with 2011 going down as somewhat of a mulligan because he missed six games with a thumb injury.

Cutler has thrown for 63 touchdowns and 49 interceptions in three seasons with the Bears, so how the club proceeds with him should be interesting to watch. Will the team look to extend Cutler sometime during the season (which would likely be a less-expensive option for the Bears), or will it let the quarterback go into 2013 as a lame duck, or worse, make him play out the contract, which could lead to contentious negotiations?

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.

Still, Cutler needs to produce for the organization to justify a new contact worth potentially 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. In addition, the team entered the season looking to build around Cutler, whom Emery considers to be a franchise centerpiece.

"We have this franchise-level quarterback here, and I really believe that in Jay. I'm not cautious or afraid of saying it. I see a franchise-level quarterback; a quarterback that can take us to championships," Emery said. "So, how do we build around him?

"Let's take a look at what was on the roster. We've got to get him more weapons. That was the process. (Receiver) Brandon (Marshall) was part of that solution. Alshon (Jeffery) is a part of that solution. Putting them together with people like Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Eric Weems, whoever ends up being our sixth or seventh (receiver); and we've got a really nice mix of players that are competing for those positions. Getting those weapons around here along with re-signing Matt Forte, bringing in Michael Bush, adding to our tight end roster, giving him more targets and more flexibility (and) run and pass games that were more balanced, that is the plan."

Still, Emery refused -- as is his custom with all contracts -- to discuss where the organization is regarding to Cutler's looming contract.