Last year, Matt Forte was the topic of contract concerns. The Pro Bowl running back negotiated with Bears management for months on end, even threatening to hold out, before finally signing a four-year, $32 million contact in July.
Next season, the Bears may go through another lengthy contract negotiation, this time with Jay Cutler.
Cutler will make $8.9 million in 2013, the final year of his contract, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. During the offseason, there will undoubtedly be debates on how much Cutler should be re-signed for and if he deserves the type of money his counterparts receive.
The tone of those debates will be much different than the ones that involved Forte last season. Forte had at least 1,400 all-purpose yards each season since his rookie year in 2008, and he is a vital part of Chicago’s ground-and-pound offense. The Bears had no choice but to sign Forte.
For many, the jury is still out on Cutler. Cutler supporters will argue that he has won 13 of his last 16 regular-season starts and that, without him, the Chicago offense suffers greatly (see Campbell, Jason).
Cutler detractors point to his low quarterback rating, his propensity for throwing interceptions and his inability to throw the ball away, leading to sacks.
General manager Phil Emery will likely weigh those factors during the offseason to decide if he’s ready to make the would-be 30-year-old the Bears franchise quarterback.
But Cutler isn’t the only Chicago Bear with a looming contract negotiation. In fact, according to John Clayton, of the Bears’ 22 starters, 17 have expiring contracts by 2014. That’s the most in the NFL.
Charles Tillman will be a free agent after 2013. Tillman is set to make $7.95 million that season.
Brian Urlacher will be a free agent after the 2012 season, and it’s unknown if the Bears plan on re-signing the 34-year-old veteran linebacker. Urlacher is making $7.5 million this season and will likely have to take a pay cut if he wants to remain a Bear for 2013.
The Bears have $4.2 million in cap room for this season, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. That doesn’t leave much flexibility to get multiple big deals done. The Bears will have closer to $50 million in cap space in 2013.
A complete list of Chicago’s salary numbers for 2012 and 2013 can be found here (via SportsCity.com).
The Bears have some key personnel decisions to make in the upcoming two seasons. After 2014, the Bears roster could look entirely different, and the pressure to win the Super Bowl now is as intense as ever.