The Chicago Bears have announced the signing of three key players today. Quarterback Jay Cutler has been signed to a seven-year contract, while guard Matt Slauson and cornerback Tim Jennings have been signed to four-year deals.
The debate all year was whether or not Cutler would return this season. According to GM Phil Emery, there was never any question as to whether or not Cutler would be in Chicago going forward.
"[Cutler] had his best season as a pro this past year from a statistical outlook," said Emery. "He also had his best season as a pro in terms of his leadership, his toughness, his ability to handle pressure and his ability to come back and win games - to be a player that is a reason you come back and win games.
"He's a demonstrated leader for the Chicago Bears. He's a key player being the reason you win. There were tough times but the thing that I love seeing in Jay was, although it started out rough, he battled through the tough times and put in a position to win the game. He's had zero picks in a number of key games this year.
"I see improvement in his ball security, I see improvement in his distribution to his targets, but I most importantly see a transition as a leader. He has a special bond with our coaching staff. Jay is a team guy. He's a key part of championship football here in Chicago."
Tim Jennings, who was outstanding after Charles Tillman was placed on injured reserve, had arguably his best season as a professional this year. He didn't match his All-Pro numbers from two years ago but Jennings played at just as high of a level this season.
"I told him when I got here he was one of the favorite players I have ever scouted," said Emery. "I've always been very impressed with his athletic suddenness and his competitive desire. In signing Tim, to me it's about rewarding excellence, and he's had that. His ability to math an opponent and shadow an opponent, it's impressive."
Slauson, who signed a one-year "prove-it" deal last offseason, was the team's most dependable offensive lineman all season.
"Matt certainly deserves that future with the Bears. He's a key part of our offensive line improvement," Emery said. "He's a big anchor point for our quarterback to be able to step up when he has outside pressure. When you're a defender lining up against Matt Slauson, you'll know that you've played a football game. He's been a very productive player and a player that we're going to reward for the long-term."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.