During what everyone assumed would be a typical post-mortem press conference Thursday morning at Halas Hall, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman announced the team had agreed to new contracts with QB Jay Cutler, LG Matt Slauson and CB Tim Jennings.
The big contract out of the bunch was obviously the Cutler deal, but equally important to the Bears is locking up two really important pieces of their respective sides of the ball in Slauson and Jennings.
With Slauson, the Bears get a guy who really helped protect Cutler’s blindside this season. He also proved to be arguably the best run-blocker on the team as Matt Forte set a career high in rushing yards. Slauson’s ability to get to his correct spot on the line in just about every instance is an invaluable commodity to a team that has struggled to put quality offensive lines together, and this extension is a great move for the Bears in protecting Cutler and enabling Forte to succeed.
As for Jennings, he made some big strides this season and really stood tall when Charles Tillman was lost for the season with a torn triceps. He isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but his coverage skills are very good in one-on-one situations. And with a defense that is going to quickly become a lot younger and inexperienced through the draft and free agency, having a constant guy in the secondary like Jennings will be crucial.
Cutler is the big fish in the group and represents the biggest statement that Emery and Trestman have made during their tenure with the team. Committing to Cutler for seven years is more representative of trying to stretch out the cap hit of the deal than in actually thinking that Cutler will be starting until he’s almost 40 years old, but the term and the amount of money (which has yet to be disclosed, but will pay Cutler an average of $18 million for the first three seasons) illustrate the Bears have fully bought into his style and ability.
Criticisms are flowing about Cutler “not being a winner” (despite his 40-29 career record with the Bears), and his gun-slinger mentality doesn’t sit well with some Bears fans. Those concerns are valid, but in an offense run by Trestman, Cutler showed marked improvements in just about every area this season. He was a lot more disciplined in the pocket this year, and having numerous targets to throw to really set the tone for the rest of the offense as the Bears scored points in bunches.
Overall, all three moves are pretty emphatic statements about the future of the Bears, but keeping Cutler in the fold long-term is the biggest statement of all. As Brandon Marshall has repeatedly said, Cutler will have a chance to really blossom thanks to having a consistent offensive coach in his ear, and Trestman has got to be excited to get to work with Cutler moving forward.