Jay Cutler not the only Chicago Bears player in contract year

Jay Cutler not the only Chicago Bears player in contract year

As our own Bob Warja talked about earlier this week, the heat is on for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler this season, particularly because he is in the final year of his contract with the team. While much of the talk as of late has been about whether or not the Bears will extend Cutler sometime during the season or wait for him to play it out, at least 10 other projected starters are playing with just one year left on their deals.

Of the 89 players currently under contract, 32 are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2013 season; four to be restricted free agents, and seven to be exclusive rights free agents. While some of those players are expected to be near the bottom of the roster, at least 15 are expected to either be starters, contributors in sub packages or play key roles on special teams.

Defensively, Pro Bowler Henry Melton will play the 2013 season on the franchise tag after he and the Bears were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal prior to the deadline on Monday, July 15.

Along with Melton, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, D.J. Williams, Major Wright, James Anderson and Corey Wootton top the list of expected defensive starters whose contracts expire at the end of the 2013 season.

A handful of defensive players who are expected to contribute in certain packages, including nickelback Kelvin Hayden and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, also sit with one year remaining on their deals.

Offensively, outside of Cutler, the expected starting trio along the offensive line of J’Marcus Webb, Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson come in with one year remaining, as well as backup offensive linemen Edwin Williams, Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton.

Last but not least, long snapper Patrick Mannelly, kick returner Devin Hester, specialists Blake Costanzo and Sherrick McManis, and kicker Robbie Gould all sit with one year remaining on their deals.

While some of these players were brought in on one-year deals (i.e. Williams, Anderson, Slauson), it appears that General Manager Phil Emery wants his players to prove to him that they deserve extensions.

It has been a bit of a surprise that neither Tillman or Jennings have been extended considering their Pro Bowl seasons last year, and particularly Tillman who has now made two straight Pro Bowls and has arguably been the team’s best cornerback for nearly a decade.

By not extending any of these players Emery has the ability to turn the team’s focus in another direction if they struggle in 2013. While many believe the team has the ability to thrive under new head coach Marc Trestman, if they do struggle there is a strong possibility that the roster could look vastly different a year from now.

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