Despite missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season, the Chicago Bears have no doubt in their minds that Jay Cutler is their franchise quarterback for the forseeable future, signing him on a new 7-year deal that will pay the 8-year veteran around $18 million a season on average, and the deal includes more than $50 million in guaranteed money.
Cutler has made the postseason only once in his career (2010 with the Bears), missing out for various reasons over the last 3 years. He went 7-3 as a starter in 2011 before his injury derailed the season for the Bears. He was 10-5 as a starter last season, but the Bears still missed out on a postseason spot. This season he missed five games, and the Bears’ defense, allowing almost 400 yards per game, probably cost them the NFC North top spot more than anything else.
Cutler wasn’t the only player the Bears re-signed in a busy Thursday, giving new deals to cornerback Tim Jennings and guard Matt Slauson, both getting a four-year deal, making it five players the Bears have re-signed from the long list of impending free agents, most of them on defense.
Cutler finished the season with his highest TD-per-pass ratio since joining the Bears (5.4%) but also his highest interception ratio in three years (3.4%). He completed 63.1% of his passes (second best of his career) and his passer rating of 89.2 is also the highest of his career, suggesting the Bears decided that under Marc Trestman Cutler has moved forward and will continue to do so. One issue the Bears managed to fix this season was their offensive line, with Cutler being sacked on only 5.1% of his dropbacks, the lowest ratio since joining the Bears.
What about the defense? Giving Cutler such a huge extension surely limits the Bears’ ability to improve defensively, and also limits their wiggling room when they’ll have to make future decisions regarding Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery, all having very productive seasons with Cutler or Josh McCown, who did a very good job in the five games he started instead of Cutler.