Bears GM: Extensions will wait
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that the team will not agree to contract extensions with any player, including quarterback Jay Cutler and several other notables, until after the season.
"We have a number of players that are under one-year contracts or their contracts will expire at the end of this season. That would be part of the planning process for 2014," Emery said as the Bears prepared to open training camp. "We are always open to dialogue with our players and with their agents, but I will tell you that with where we're at with our current salary cap and the room that we have in our cap in our efforts to put together a championship team in 2013, I do not anticipate that we will do any extensions of contracts during this season. All those will occur, with the players it will occur with, will happen in 2014 and not during the 2013 season."
Cutler said Wednesday that he's OK with the Bears' policy.
"That's fine with me," he said. "I haven't really talked about any of my contracts in my career and I'm not really going to start now. We'll play it out, and however it's supposed to go, it's going to work out."
The Bears have 13 key players who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season, including Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Henry Melton, Devin Hester, Major Wright and Robbie Gould. The Bears' media guide lists 43 players with expiring contracts at the end of the 2013 season.
"It doesn't really matter what year you are in your contract I don't think, you gotta still go out and prove yourself," Cutler said. "You've got to play each and every week. You've got to be consistent and you've got to sustain that the whole season. Nothing's really changed on that part."
However, Gould had a different take, saying the approach will cost the team more money to keep the players it wants and implied that others will have divided motivation this season as a result.
"At the end of the day, if you have all these guys [unsigned], they have to take care of No. 1," Gould told ESPN 1000.
But most of the focus will be on Cutler, who is set to begin his fifth season with the Bears after being traded to Chicago from the Denver Broncos in 2009. The Bears might risk having to pay Cutler a lot more money if he has a big season in 2013, but that's a gamble Emery is apparently willing to take.
"I guess if you're saying an enormous amount of leverage [for Cutler], that means we've had a great season," Emery said. "That's a problem I look forward to."
Cutler, scheduled to report to training camp later Wednesday, said he won't be under additional pressure to perform because of the contract.
"I think there's pressure before every season to go out there," he said. "Everyone feels good about the spot they're in with the start of the year. Obviously, with a new coach there's a lot to learn on our part. But there's a lot of room to be positive and to think we're going to have a good season."
Melton and the Bears couldn't reach agreement on a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, and he will play under his previously signed one-year, $8.45 million franchise tender. Deciding to withhold contract extensions is a calculated risk for any general manager, but Emery does not foresee his decision hurting the overall team morale.
"I see a group of guys that are very dialed in," Emery said. "No, [I haven't seen any] pushback. I think all of the players are focused on doing their very best to contribute as an individual to our team's success. I have not seen any of that pushback. I see guys very focused, full of energy and working hard to attain our goals."
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall echoed Emery's comments but admitted that he struggled to deal with a contract impasse earlier in his career. Although Marshall has two years left on a contract paying him $9.3 million per season, he is another candidate for a lucrative extension after setting a franchise single-season record last season with 118 receptions for 1,508 receiving yards.
"I remember when I was [looking for a new deal] a couple of years ago it affected me," Marshall said. "I still put up numbers, but I think it took away from the chemistry I had with the guys [and] my presence in the locker room. I think I was immature and I went about it the wrong way, but the guys that we have in this locker room that are up and have one year left on their deals are pro's pros. I don't think we have to worry about that here."
ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.