Cutler, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, signed a seven-year contract with the team, general manager Phil Emery announced Thursday.
Although terms were not released, Cutler’s deal is expected to eclipse the $17.6 million average the Detroit Lions gave Matthew Stafford in July. It also includes at least $50 million in guaranteed money, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
In explaining the thought process behind locking up Cutler for the long term, Emery discussed the quarterback’s growth in 2013, a season the general manager described as his best.
“He’s a demonstrated winner with the Chicago Bears,” Emery said. “He can be a key player in terms of being the reason you win.”
Emery pointed to Cutler’s “leadership” during a difficult 2013 campaign, in addition to his “improvement” and “display of toughness.”
“Very excited to have Jay for the long term,” Emery said. “Cutler battled through the tough times.”
Also Thursday, the Bears re-signed cornerback Tim Jennings and guard Matt Slauson to four-year deals. The Bears have signed five players who were pending free agents in the aftermath of the team’s season: Cutler, Jennings, Slauson, kicker Robbie Gould and fullback Tony Fiammetta.
Cutler had a 103.8 passer rating in Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers and concluded the season with a career-high rating of 89.2 while throwing for 2,621 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Before signing the deal, Cutler ranked 11th among quarterbacks in terms of average salary at $14,718,500. Players comparable to Cutler, such as Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub, were averaging more in salary, which means Cutler likely received a contract at the very least in line with those of his peers.
In Jennings, Emery discussed “rewarding excellence” for a veteran who took on the responsibilities of a No. 1 cornerback after Charles Tillman was lost for the season with a torn triceps. Jennings earned Pro-Bowl recognition in 2012 and was recently named to the All-NFC North team. He has 13 interceptions over the past two seasons, second in the NFL to Seattle’s Richard Sherman. Jennings also forced two fumbles and recovered another.
Slauson joined the Bears last spring on a one-year contract to bolster what had been a porous offensive line in recent years. Emery discussed Slauson’s “physicality” and “leadership” while also calling him a “key part” of the group’s dramatic improvement in 2013.
Chicago surrendered 30 sacks in 2013, 14 fewer than it did in 2012. With Slauson leading the way on inside runs along with rookie Kyle Long, Matt Forte finished with career highs in rushing yards (1,339) and rushing touchdowns (nine).
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