Going beyond the Cutler deal, what’s next for the Bears?

SHARE Going beyond the Cutler deal, what’s next for the Bears?
SHARE Going beyond the Cutler deal, what’s next for the Bears?

The Jay Cutler contract extension on Tuesday night sets the quarterback to be on board for the same length of time as general manager Jerry Angelo, who is also signed through 2013. The Bears took advantage of their surplus of salary cap this season–they had nearly $20 million available when the season began–and applied a chunk of the space to this season’s cap.

Cutler gets some security with $20 million of the $30 million in new money guaranteed, and that was significant for him with the chance of a lockout in 2011 when he had a $12 million roster bonus due. If he plays like the Bears believe he is capable of–and they think the sky is the limit–they’ll be back to the bargaining table before this deal is done. Cutler is now set to make roughly $50 million over the next five seasons and elite quarterbacks are already in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. But with two years after this one remaining on his rookie contract, Cutler didn’t have a lot of leverage. Remember, his contract is one thing he never talked about in wanting out of Denver as a 25-year-old Pro Bowl performer.

So where does this leave the Bears? Well, they have a quarterback to build around longterm right now, and early results show things are working well with his young wide receivers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Are there any players the Bears would seek an extension with now during the remainder of the season? It’s possible, you can’t rule anything out, but it looks unlikely at this point.

Let’s review when contracts are up for the team:

2009: DE Mark Anderson, S Josh Bullocks, S Danieal Manning, LB Darrell McClover, DE Adewale Ogunleye, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Nick Roach, LB Tim Shaw, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, DT Matt Toeaina, LB Jamar Williams

Comment: With the possibility of an uncapped year hanging over the game, the Bears will be able to control most of these players (if they want to) if there is not an extension of the CBA. The only players coming out of contract who are ensured of being unrestricted free agents are McClover, Ogunleye, Peterson and Tinoisamoa. Coach Lovie Smith has been excited about Manning, but we haven’t seen a lot from him on defense so far. As often as the Bears have gone hot and then cold on him, it might make sense to take the chance at a one-year tender on him to wait and see some consistency. Of course, the revolving door at safety will not stop until the Bears get some players they can plug in and count on. Ogunleye is an interesting case. Angelo said the trade for Gaines Adams didn’t have anything to do with Anderson or Ogunleye. It’s a situation where Ogunleye, 32, will probably test the market. He’s known to like Smith, he likes the team and he’s a captain. The Bears would probably have an opportunity to match an offer if they wanted. The guess right now is they might. Roach will be a restricted free agent. Anderson could return on a one-year tender if he plays well, and he’d actually earn more than Adams in 2010 with a tender.

2010: DT Anthony Adams, WR Devin Armoashodu, G Josh Beekman, TE Desmond Clark, WR Rashied Davis, CB Corey Graham, QB Caleb Hanie, RB Kevin Jones, C Olin Kreutz, LS Pat Mannelly, P Brad Maynard, S Kevin Payne, RB Garrett Wolfe

Comment: There has been talk about Beekman eventually becoming a center, and he and Kreutz come up at the same time. Maynard could be a guy the Bears consider keeping around. Punters are ageless and he’s maintained a level of performance ever since arriving in 2001. Next year he will match Bob Thomas for years of service with the franchise.

2011: WR Earl Bennett, CB Zack Bowman, DE Alex Brown, TE Kellen Davis, RB Matt Forte, G Roberto Garza, DT Marcus Harrison, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, DL Israel Idonije, FB Jason McKie, TE Greg Olsen, OT Orlando Pace, OT Kevin Shaffer, S Craig Steltz

Comment: Really difficult to forecast how many of these guys will figure into the picture in 2012. Probably only a couple. Olsen figures to be in line for a new deal at some point, but that’s down the road. Garza deserves a new contract simply because he’s been one of the lowest-paid veteran starting guards in the league for a while now. He’s been a consistent, durable performer.

2012: DE Gaines Adams, S Al Afalava, DL Jarron Gilbert, DT Tommie Harris, WR Juaquin Iglesias, WR Johnny Knox, G Lance Louis, DL Henry Melton, CB D.J. Moore, G Frank Omiyale, LB Brian Urlacher, CB Nathan Vasher, OT Chris Williams

Comment: The magic to the Adams’ trade, if it works out, is the Bears got him for essentially the same length of time you can sign a second-round draft for–four seasons. We’ll see where Harris is at by this point. He’s going to need to play better the remainder of this season to ensure the $2.5 million roster bonus he has due next June. The Bears want to see elite performance because they believe that is what they paid for in his extension. If Urlacher makes it to 2012, the guess is he might have to do so after a pay cut. Just as he felt he outperformed his contract, the Bears could use the same argument against him in approaching him for a reduction. Yes, the pace Knox is on could call for a reworked deal following the 2010 season.

2013: LB Lance Briggs, QB Jay Cutler, K Robbie Gould, WR Devin Hester, CB Charles Tillman

Comment: Cutler could be signed for another five years after this. If the other four players figure into the picture in 2014, the Bears will have gotten top value out of their current contracts.

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