When it was announced by Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery this week that Jay Cutler was re-signed to a seven-year, $126.7 million contract, with $54 million guaranteed, the disapproval came flooding in from all corners of the NFL landscape. Many folks wondered how a quarterback who has won just one playoff game during his eight years in the league can command that type of money.
The deal pays Cutler roughly the same amount in guaranteed cash as Aaron Rodgers and makes him the only quarterback in the league signed through the 2020 season. That's a heavy investment in a talented yet flawed signal caller. Being on the hook for that long, many wondered aloud how it might impact the team if Cutler flames out, or if the marriage between he and Marc Trestman ends in divorce.
When you look deeper into the contract though, you realize the Bears are actually only on the line with Cutler for the next three seasons. His base salaries the next three years are $22.5 million in 2014, $15.5 million in 2015 and $16 million in 2016. All of the guaranteed money will come from those first three years, and there was no signing bonus.
Between 2017-2020, there is no dead money in Cutler's deal. So if things go downhill at any time during that span, the Bears can waive him with absolutely no cap hit.
Cutler is going to make a boatload of money over the next three years. His cap number for next season ($22.5 million) is tough to swallow but beyond 2014, the Bears will be paying him at or below market value for each year of the deal. And if that's not palatable for years 4-7 of the deal, Chicago can waive him and move on.
Cutler is banking on himself, and in that way, he gave the Bears the discount they needed to make the deal work. But the Bears also hedged their bet by eliminating the yearly signing bonus and front-loading the guaranteed portion. Cliff Stein is known one of the best contract negotiators in the league and with Cutler's contract, he might have outdone himself.
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.