If Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hopes to receive the type of contract that quarterbacks like Joe Flacco and Tony Romo recently signed, he'll have to prove himself as a franchise quarterback in a contract year as the Bears intend to allow Cutler to play out the final year of his deal.
Acquired via trade from the Denver Broncos in 2009, Cutler signed a five-year deal worth $50.37 million in his first season with the Bears, but the contract has just one year remaining before Cutler is scheduled to reach free agency.
Cutler, 29, could probably demand quite a bit onmarket, but he hasn't quite proven himself as a franchise quarterback in whom teams would feel comfortable investing so much treasure. In seven seasons, he has led a team to the playoffs just once, taking the 2010 Bears to the NFC Championship Game. While Chicago finished the 2012 season with a 10-6 record, Cutler's play wasn't overwhelming as his 81.3 passer rating was decidedly average.
So too was Flacco's in 2011, as the Baltimore Ravens quarterback finished with an 80.9 rating, prompting the team to allow him to play out the final year of his contract. Flacco led the Ravens to the playoffs and was named the Super Bowl MVP as he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in the postseason. The performance earned Flacco a six-year deal worth $120.6 million.
Maybe that's why Cutler told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that he isn't discouraged about the prospects of playing out the final year of his contract:
"It doesn't make me mad," Cutler said of seeing other quarterbacks get paid. "You know, there's some big numbers being thrown out there. You can't get ahead of yourself. We've got to win games to sign those contracts. I'm in my last year obviously. I'm sure everybody knows that. We'll play it out and see how it goes."
Cutler finished 2012 with 19 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and 3,033 passing yards. One struggle for him was playing behind the Bears offensive line, as he was sacked 38 times, the fifth-most in the NFL. The Bears have already made a move to help in that regard, signing former-Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod to a five-year deal worth $35.965 million.