Only four days removed from a tough season-ending 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears made some big time moves.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings and left guard Matt Slauson all inked long-term deals to stay in the windy city. The three veterans were unrestricted free agents.
Cutler earned a seven-year deal worth $126 million which includes $54 guaranteed. The deal will keep him in Chicago until 2020. Cutler will earn a reported $18 million per season for the first three years of his new contract with the Bears.
"We're pleased, it works for both parties," General manager Phil Emery said about Cutler's new deal. "lt rewards Jay and it enables us to continue to build a championship team."
His 2013 season didn't go as planned as he suffered groin and ankle injuries, but posted a career-best 89.2 QB rating along with 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions in 2,621 yards and a 63.1 completion percentage in 11 starts.
Cutler averaged around 238 passing yards per game in 2013, which also ranked as a career-best for the 30-year-old Vanderbilt product.
Since landing in Chicago in 2009 in a trade with the Denver Broncos, Cutler has posted a 39-28 record. He will be determined to improve on his 1-9 career record against the Packers heading into the 2014 season.
"I wanted to stay here," Cutler said on Thursday. "It would have taken the Bears not wanting me here to leave."
The move makes too much sense as he will only improve in his second full season under Marc Trestman's command. When sources reported a couple weeks back that the Bears were willing to let Cutler walk this off-season, I knew they were bogus.
Cutler and Trestman have a true connection and this offense works efficiently. That is already known among fans and media members.
An average NFL offense takes a full three years to learn, Cutler noted during training camp and the Bears clearly had ups and downs despite a second ranked scoring offense (445 points), which is a franchise best.
Cutler plans on going to Florida this offseason to work with Marshall, Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Marquess Wilson, according to Chicagobears.com writer Larry Mayer.
Emery and the Bears wanted to get these three contracts taken care of as quickly as possible. Last week, kicker Robbie Gould earned a new four-year, $15 million deal, which included $9 guaranteed.
Jennings and Slauson each earned four-year deals, both very worthy of them.
Jennings' deal is worth $22.4 million with $11.815 guaranteed. The 30-year-old finished the 2013 season with 57 tackles, four interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Jennings came over to Chicago in 2009 and he fit right into the Cover-2 scheme on defense. He's added 16 interceptions, 51 pass deflections, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries along with three defensive touchdowns over that time.
In 2012, he tied a franchise record with nine interceptions. He's reeled in 13 interceptions over the last two seasons, which is second to only Seattle's Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman.
Jennings could possibly be the No. 1 cornerback if soon to be 33-year-old Charles Tillman doesn't return.
In only eight games this season, Tillman generated 41 tackles, three interceptions, seven pass deflections and three forced fumbles.
"Did we have enough depth to win football games?" Emery said. "No. … We want a physical, fast, playmaking defense. .. .I saw that in the first three games. We were creating turnovers."
Slauson signed a one-year deal with the Bears this past off-season and helped the offensive line finish fourth-best in the league allowing only 30 sacks.
"I was excited to hear that he was going to be here four more years protecting me," Cutler said. "He was a big help to the rookies, especially in showing Kyle what it takes to be a great guard."
Slauson played every single snap at left guard this season and graded out 37th among 78 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' ranks.
In total, the Bears have 26 free agents to make decisions on moving forward.
Top free agents:
Offense - QB Josh McCown, C Roberto Garza
Defense - DT's Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins, DE Corey Wootton, Safties Major Wright, Craig Steltz
Special Teams - KR Devin Hester, LS Patrick Mannelly
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