At the end of this season, 13 key Bears will become free agents. The group includes Jay Cutler, Robbie Gould, Henry Melton, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. But even with the daunting task re-signing -- or losing -- so many important players, Bears general manager Phil Emery said he's not doing any contract extensions during the season.
"I prefer the focus to be on the field in the present tense, fully dialed in in this season and our efforts to win championships," Emery said as the team reported to Bourbonnais for training camp. "But it also is a reflection of where we are with the cap. You have to have room to make those types of extensions and we're just not in that position."
This puts the Bears players in the position of having to perform this season to get a contract for the next one. For some players, like Jay Cutler, this is not a problem. He said he would rather not have to think about it during season.
"It doesn't really matter what year you are in your contract, I don't think, you still have to prove yourself. You have to play each and every week. You have to be consistent and you have to sustain that the whole season. Nothing really has changed on that part," Cutler said.
But not every player sees it that way. Gould has been consistent and reliable for years. Since he has always performed, why shouldn't he have the security of a contract for beyond this season? Gould told ESPN Chicago it would benefit the players and the organization if they re-signed some players now.
"If they were smart they would try to get their core group of players and re-sign them before the end of the year and try to make it work, but a lot of us are sitting in a great position. You might see a lot of guys exit the Bears, [so] this year has to be pretty special, because if it doesn’t go as well as planned I can see them completely rebuilding. Or they might find a couple guys they think is their core group and get rid of some of the other higher-paid guys."
With $1.6 million in salary cap room, Emery says the Bears just don't have the money to spend. Regardless of what happens in 2013, the start of free agency in 2014 is going to be very busy as the Bears try to hold on to, and perhaps let go of, their best players.