It initially appeared on the surface to be nothing more than the typical end-of-the-year press conference Thursday morning until Phil Emery sat down and told the media that the team had elected to re-sign Tim Jennings and Matt Slauson before pausing (for dramatic effect) to include Jay Cutler in that list.
"We're very excited to have Jay for the long term," Emery said. "He battled through the tough times and kept fighting."
Emery declined to comment on the terms of the deal other than it being for seven years, but Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network later tweeted that Cutler's deal is for seven years, $126 million with $54 million guaranteed.
It would not be surprising if Cutler does not reach the end of that seven-year deal, given the non-guarantee of NFL contracts, but the $54 million in guaranteed money means he is the team's No. 1 option for at least the foreseeable future.
Cutler has been a polarizing figure in Chicago since his arrival in 2009 and 2013 may have been the most challenging year for him. After suffering an injury against the Washington Redskins in October he battled back to face the Detroit Lions before getting pulled and missed the team's next four starts before coming back to beat the Cleveland Browns in Week-15.
After that victory against the Browns, I touched on how Cutler sounded like a different player, one who was more self-aware of his situation. For years fans have looked at his aloof demeanor and attributed the team's lack of success on his "pouty attitude" and "sullen disposition," yet his teammates have never called him out for his so-called "bad behavior" and have elected him team captain every year he has been in Chicago.
His play on the field has been erratic at times in Chicago, but he has shown improvement during his short time spent under the tutelage of Marc Trestman. Many will point to his high interception rate (12 this season), and while he does have a tendency to force throws, he showed improvement in that area and can only stand to improve with more time spent with Trestman and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
Despite marked improvement, the Cutler naysayers will still continue to object to seeing him in a Bears uniform. Strong performances from Josh McCown in the wake of his injuries led to many jumping off of the Cutler bandwagon, but that has not effected how Cutler feels about being in Chicago for the long term.
Judging by some of the reactions on Twitter and Facebook following the announcement of his new deal, there are many who believe that the team made the wrong decision, but Cutler wasn't afraid to address that, saying, “Moving forward there’s definitely going to be people saying that this is the wrong move and that’s fine. That’s their opinion. The guys in this building, the people in the building will stick together and keep moving in the direction that we think is right.”
While some may challenge his willingness to win or criticize his actions on the sidelines, he made it clear on Thursday that it is not about the money, it is about winning championships.
"You get to a certain point ... what's the most important part of your career?" Cutler said. "Do you want to say, 'hey, I made X amount of dollars' or 'hey, I won championships'? I talked to guys like (Matt) Forte and B-Marsh and (Roberto) Garza and all the guys, we're here to win championships."
While there are certainly no guarantees that the Bears will win a championship in the very near future, like it or not, the long-term signing of Cutler puts this team , with this offensive system and coach, in the best position it has been in years.
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Filed under: Players