Jay Cutler is staying with the Bears.
The quarterback has signed a seven-year extension with the team, general manager Phil Emery said at a press conference Thursday morning at Halas Hall.
Cutler was one of three Bears stalwarts signed — cornerback Tim Jennings and guard Matt Slauson each inked four-year deals.
“I was quietly confident we were gonna get this thing done,” Cutler said.
The quarterback said he only wanted to explore the open market if the Bears decided they didn’t want him back, and was “optimistic” he would return. His agent Bus Cook began negotiating with the Bears earlier this week.
An agreement was reached so quickly, Cutler said, because both sides wanted it to work.
The seven-year deal is reportedly worth $126 million with $54 million of it guaranteed.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure right now,” Cutler said. “I feel at ease. I know I’m locked in here.”
Cutler “had his best season as a pro from statistical outlook,” Emery said.
He completed 224 of 355 pass attempts for 2,621 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Cutler’s 89.2 passer rating was a career-best.
The general manager wouldn’t give financial specifics. He said he first reached out to Cutler on Monday.
“I would say this: it works for both parties,” Emery said. “It rewards Jay, and it helps the team continue to build a championship-level team.”
He said he saw “nothing but positives” in Cutler’s interactions with the team’s first-year coaching staff. After the first three games, he said, he knew Cutler “was moving in the right direction.”
Emery praised Cutler for being a “demonstrative winner with the Chicago Bears” and the “reason you win.”
He praised a “special bond” Cutler has with his teammates, coaches and even those on the defensive side. He cited Cutler’s defense of embattled defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
“He battled through the tough times and kept fighting,” Emery said. He” never stopped being a leader.”
Coach Marc Trestman described Cutler as having “the mental and physical toughness to be able to be at your best when everything in caving in around you.” He cited the Bears’ win in Cleveland, when Cutler returned from injury, and his hobbled performance at home against the Lions.
“His team elected him captain,” Trestman said. “I saw a selflessness. I certainly saw his mental toughness.”
Cutler’s contract expired at the end of the season. The Bears could have extended a franchise tag, which would have been a one-year deal worth $16 million or so, though Emery said in the past the deal would be onerous.
Even once signing the deal, Emery said, the Bears “”have enough space to be competitive and do the things we need to do.”
Cutler — who was scheduled to take his wife on vacation this weekend — said as recently as Monday that he didn’t expect a deal this week. “The majority of the work” for the extensions was done in the last three days, Emery said.
Emery said the Bears “love” backup quarterback Josh McCown, but he played well enough this season to have options going forward. Cutler concurred.
He said signing Jennings was “about rewarding excellence.”
The cornerback Tweeted Thursday morning: “The butterflies are starting to take affect!!! So excited about the new year and to be a Bear for another 4 years!”
Emery said he was clear with Slauson that he wanted him around. The guard signed a one-year deal last season.
“Matt certainly deserves that future with the Bears,” Emery said. “Matt is absolutely what we were looking for in this system.”
Trestman said he walked into Emery’s office Tuesday morning and “we decided to begin executing our plan.” He talked about the “unreachable standard” of perfection.
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: Jay Cutler compared to other franchise QBs