Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Bears' Cutler likely has to wait for new deal
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- If Jay Cutler wants a new contract from the Chicago Bears, it looks as if he'll have to wait until the end of the season.
So will everyone else with an expiring deal.
General manager Phil Emery says he doesn't see the Bears extending contracts this season, meaning several high-profile players could hit the market.
Emery said the Bears are "always open to dialogue" with players and their agents, but he doesn't anticipate any extensions "during this season."
He spoke Wednesday as players filed in for the start of training camp, their first under new coach Marc Trestman. They'll go through conditioning tests on Thursday with the first practice on Friday.
"I prefer the focus to be on the field and in the present tense, to be fully dialed in to this season and our efforts to win championships," Emery said. "It also is a reflection of where we're at in the (salary) cap. You have to have room, both cap and cash to make those types of extensions, and we're just not in that position."
And Cutler insisted that's fine with him.
"If you win and produce, you're going to get paid," he said.
Asked if there were any discussions during the offseason, Cutler said, "No we haven't spoke. If we have spoke, I probably wouldn't tell you anyways. We'll see what happens in the future."
The Bears have a long list of players with expiring deals, and it starts with Cutler, the strong-armed quarterback who for a variety of reasons has not quite lived up to the expectations that accompanied him from Denver to Chicago.
It also includes Pro Bowl cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, defensive tackle Henry Melton, kicker Robbie Gould and return specialist Devin Hester among others.
There are plenty of big names on that list, with some coming off big years (Tillman and Jennings), another playing for the franchise tender (Melton) and others trying to re-establish themselves after suffering a season-ending injury (Gould) or simply struggling (Hester).
"I see a bunch of players that want to continue to be here and I think they've seen since I've been here that we will reward players that are on the upside and still improving and still are contributing, whether they are young or old as Chicago Bears," Emery said. "And we will reward them."
He said he sees players who are "very dialed in," and star receiver Brandon Marshall echoed that, although he acknowledged he struggled with a similar situation earlier in his career.
"I still put up numbers," he said. "But I think it took away from the chemistry I had with the guys, 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, that have one year left on their deals, they're pro's pros. So I don't think we'll have to worry about that here."
No one is under a bigger microscope than Cutler.
The Bears hired Trestman to replace the fired Lovie Smith, hoping he could energize the offense and get the most out of the quarterback.
That really hasn't happened since he arrived in a trade with Denver in 2009, whether it was because of poor blocking, questionable play-calling or injuries to himself or other players. A big season could lead to a huge payday for Cutler, from the Bears or another team.
In other words, he would have leverage. Emery would welcome that.
"I guess if you're saying an enormous amount of leverage, we've had a great season, and that's a problem I look forward to," he said.
On the other hand, if Cutler struggles, the Bears could simply let him walk.
It hasn't been easy for him in Chicago. He's taken a beating behind an offensive line that ranked among the league's worst the past few years and had issues with former offensive coordinators Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice. One of the big questions heading into this season is whether he'll click with Trestman, who brings an offensive background to his first head coaching job in the NFL.
"On every level, I've enjoyed the process with Jay -- the interaction in our meetings, the level of content in our football discussions and his assimilation to the system based on the fact there have been so many of them the last four, five years," Trestman said.
Cutler will also be lining up behind a revised line, the biggest addition being Jermon Bushrod at left tackle. All those moves come after Emery acquired Marshall from Miami a year ago, reuniting the quarterback with his favorite target in Denver.
To many, he's out of excuses. And he could be running out of time in Chicago.
"What I need to see from all of our players to move forward with them is consistent improvement," Emery said. "It's not just about Jay. We have a number of players who are either at the last year of their deal or under one-year contracts so it's the same for all of them."
NOTES: Marshall said he does not expect to have any real limitations in practice after having hip surgery in January, although he did add, "I'm going to listen to my body, and go as it tells me." ... Emery sounded committed to Josh McCown as the No. 2 quarterback. "He's our No. 2 quarterback and he will be moving forward," he said. ... Emery seemed amused that Hester and Tennessee's Chris Johnson raced a cheetah for a Nat Geo Wild special scheduled to air this fall. "I'm really kind of curious," he said. "They didn't tell us how it turned out on purpose, obviously, they're going to make us tune in, so I'll be tuned in with you, no doubt about it."