While the initial reports of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s new deal have mostly focused on the big numbers—seven years and $126 million—a more recent report has revealed the breakdown of those numbers.
According to Mike Florio of nbcsports.com, referencing “a source with knowledge of the deal,” the contract, which does not include a signing bonus, looks like this over the first three years:
- 2014: $22.5 million
- 2015: $15.5 million
- 2016: $16 million
This $54 million over three years is the only portion of the contract that is guaranteed. And because the deal is front-loaded in lieu of a signing bonus, these figures act not only as Cutler’s base salary but the number calculated against the salary cap as well.
Per Florio, here is what the last four years of the contract look like:
- 2017: $12.5 million
- 2018: $13.5 million
- 2019: $17.5 million
- 2020: $19.2 million
These four years make up the non-guaranteed part of the contract. Essentially, prior to any of these seasons the Bears could part ways with Cutler without owing him another dime.
You might notice, though, that the numbers listed thus far are about $10 million short of the $126 million total. That’s because the final four years of the deal include $10 million in incentives—if Cutler is on the active roster he makes $156,250 that week. Multiply that weekly bonus over four years and you get close to $10 million.
Why the Bears Did It
The contract, essentially a three-year deal with a team option to make it a four-, five-, six- or seven-year deal, gives Phil Emery and the Bears coaching staff some flexibility. If they want to stick it out with Cutler, they can. If they want to go down a younger route after three years, they don’t have to put all their stock into one draft—they can assess each year’s crop of quarterbacks, and, with Cutler in their back pocket, proceed accordingly.
With so many issues to address on defense, the Bears' General Manager may have figured, when it comes to the quarterback position, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.” Cutler ranked eighth in the NFL in ESPN's Total QBR and put up his best statistical season since arriving in Chicago.
Why Cutler Did It
Cutler gets a big payday, signing bonus or not. And with the huge payouts in the first three years of the deal, it’s likely that he’ll remain the starter over those years. Chicago’s supporting cast on offense is as strong as any in the NFL; after putting up the best quarterback rating of his career in Marc Trestman’s system, staying in Chicago is a prudent career decision.
Because the fourth and fifth years of the contract are the least expensive, $12.5 and $13.5 million plus bonuses, Cutler remains an attractive option over those years. So the deal, while it looks like it guarantees three more years of Cutler, could very well be five years of Cutler as long as he plays at a passing level.