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Musick: Bears bank on Cutler becoming winner

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Erica Benson)
Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler (left) consoles guard Matt Slauson after the 33-28 loss to Green Bay in the NFC North title game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 at Soldier Field.

LAKE FOREST – Dear young mothers and fathers living on planet Earth in 2014.

Raise your children to be NFL quarterbacks.

You can thank me later.

Because if your child grows up to be a quarterback, he or she eventually could make enough money to buy an electric guitar, a remote-control helicopter, a medium-sized island and several city blocks (skyscrapers included).  

Need proof?

Say hello to Jay Cutler, a thus far middle-of-the-road quarterback with a superstar contract.

Cutler’s deal, which the Bears announced Thursday at Halas Hall, should help him cover the grocery bills for, oh, forever. According to the Sun-Times and a ton of other media outlets, Cutler signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with $54 million guaranteed.

Not bad for a guy with one playoff win in eight NFL seasons.

I know what some of you are thinking right now. That I’m being a Debbie Downer. That my glass is half empty. That my fridge is filled with sour grapes.

But think of it this way: If it were your money, would you have written the check? Would you have asked Cutler to join you for a stroll down Tony Romo Road?

If so, why?

Because you lacked better options, at least in the near term? Because other teams such as Dallas and Baltimore had spent funny money on quarterbacks, too?

Or because you honestly, truly believed Cutler could deliver a Super Bowl title?

Cutler’s overall price tag of $126 million is frightening and Alfonso Soriano-esque, but the number that matters most is $54 million. Essentially, the Bears owe Cutler an average of $18 million for each of the next three seasons, according to Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez, and nothing beyond that is guaranteed unless the Bears retain Cutler.

By signing a long-term deal, Cutler avoided the franchise tag, which would have represented a one-year deal worth slightly more than $16 million. That option would have bogged down the Bears’ salary cap in 2014, whereas this deal can be spread out and allow the Bears more wiggle room to sign players this spring.

Cutler said he never was interested in testing the open market.

“I can’t speak for every player, but you reach 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 say hey, I won championships? …

“We’re here to win championships, not to make so and so amount of dollars. That was my thought process. Whether it’s $15 million or it’s $22 million [per season], it’s hard to spend all that in your lifetime. Kristin said she’ll help.”

It was a funny line, which Cutler directed toward his celebrity wife, Kristin Cavallari. She sat near the front corner of the room and quickly walked out with her husband after the news conference had ended.

Side note: Talk about a power couple. The Obamas might return to live in Chicago in a couple of years, but they’ll have nothing on the Cutler-Cavallari bank account.

If the Bears decide to keep Cutler for the duration of his contract, then he would remain on the lakefront through the 2020 season. That’s one season longer than Aaron Rodgers’ contract, which is set to expire after 2019 in Green Bay.

You know Rodgers, right? He’s the quarterback with one Super Bowl championship, five playoff berths and a 9-3 record as a starter against the Bears.

Now probably would be a bad time to mention that Cutler is 1-8 against Green Bay.

Predictably, Bears general manager Phil Emery defended his quarterback.

“Jay doesn’t have to be better than Aaron Rodgers,” Emery said. “Our team has to be better than the Green Bay Packers. We have a quarterback that we can win with. And we have a quarterback that when we’re behind, he can be the reason we win.

“Now, it’s continuing to build a Chicago Bear team. Not an offensive team. Not an offensive, defensive or special-teams team, but a team – a team that can win our division or put ourselves in a position to be in the playoffs every year, so that we are in a spot that we can win a championship.”

And there’s the key word: Championship.

If the Bears win a Super Bowl with Cutler, the price tag will be worth it.

If they don’t, it won’t.

In the meantime, for better or worse, they’ll be paying Cutler like a Super Bowl champ.

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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