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Bears Fri Jan 03 2014

Bears Ink Cutler To Team Friendly Deal

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngComparing contracts between players at the same position in the NFL, especially at quarterback, can be a silly exercise. In terms of pure dollars, Eli Manning was the highest paid quarterback in 2013 (yikes). In 2014, Tony Romo was scheduled to take throne as the highest paid. That is, until Jay Cutler got rich via the Chicago Bears.

According to NFL insider Brandon Marshall and a few other reports leaking around the internet, Cutler signed on the dotted line for seven years and $126 million with $54 million guaranteed. In terms of total contract value, it's the third highest amount in the history of the league, beaten only by Michael Vick's $138 million with Atlanta and Aaron Rodgers' nearly $131 million with Green Bay. From a guaranteed money perspective, it ties for second with Rodgers, while Peyton Manning holds down the top slot with $58 million in irrevocable paper.

The instant reaction to the seven year commitment among a handful of Bears fans was furious and hate riddled. A look at the Bears Facebook page is all you need to see if you wonder what the population base thinks of Cutler. The raw numbers of the contract leave out the full story though.

The reason why guys who don't seem to 'deserve it' are the highest paid in any given season is simple: Teams work under a restrictive salary cap, and structure deals in a way to make them fit in the current year, and hopefully years to come. The devil, or in this case, the angel, is in the details.

Why sign Cutler to this deal when they could've put the franchise tag on him, bought another year of evaluation, and then given him the same deal? Because he would've been paid just $16.2 million for the upcoming season, one in which they have the fourth highest amount of cap room in the NFL. It would be a waste of valuable resources unless the Bears could somehow structure the deal to give themselves future protection as I mentioned earlier in the week. That's exactly what Cliff Stein, the team's cap guru, did.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the $54 million being guaranteed is the base salary for the first three years, and there isn't a single dollar of signing bonus money in the deal. What that means in salary cap terminology is that after the first three years, the Bears can cut bait at anytime without financial repercussions (re: cap penalties). As the headline indicates, it's a three-year deal with what amounts to four team options from 2017 to 2020.

The Bears take risk in the early years of the deal, precisely when you want to for a guy in his 30s, and the rest of the contract is all icing on the cake. If Cutler is still a Bear in 2020, it means a lot of great things happened for the team in the years leading up to that point.

The reported $22.5 million in the first year is Stein taking advantage of the $45-plus million in space available. By taking a large hit the first season, Cutler gets his cash earlier, and the Bears leave themselves precious money to spend in future years. It won't hurt their pursuit of defensive free agents this year, as they can schedule cap hits for incoming or re-signing players to be lesser this season, and increase later when Cutler's salary numbers drop off precipitously.

The speed of the signing might've caught some people by surprise, but it should instill confidence that the decision makers in the Bears organization were sold on Cutler for a long-term deal first thing Monday morning, and moved quickly to make it happen.

There's no longer a worry in Chicago about having a terrible quarterback taking the reigns of a high-powered offense in the foreseeable future. Instead, the best signal caller in the history of the organization got the money he would have anywhere else in the league, and will take cues from a guy in Marc Trestman, who almost all Bears fans have trust in when it comes to bringing the best out of the QB playing.

Have a cigarette, Jay. You've earned it.

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