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ARKUSH: Bears have many decisions to make after season

It’s hard imagine quarterback Jay Cutler signing new deal for anything less than $100 milliwith $45 milli$50 milliguaranteed. | Getty

It’s hard to imagine quarterback Jay Cutler signing a new deal for anything less than $100 million, with $45 million to $50 million guaranteed. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:32AM



It has been fairly well-
documented that Jay Cutler, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, Henry Melton, Corey Wootton, D.J. Williams, James Anderson, Tim Jennings, Major Wright and Charles Tillman, all opening-day starters this season, will be free agents at the end of the season.

What is a general manager to do? Phil Emery can’t re-sign them all and shouldn’t want to. But what if they’re all allowed to hit the open market and none come back?

Can the Bears do a quick rebuild around Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Jermon Bushrod, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea, Shea McClellin, Lance Briggs, Chris Conte, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene?

No.

You would have some interesting parts to work with offensively, but you have nothing without a quarterback in today’s NFL.

If Cutler is allowed to leave after delivering nothing, it will have been 28 years since the Bears last had a championship quarterback in Jim McMahon, and it took them 19 years after the nondescript Billy Wade to find him. On just what might you base the hope and belief that Emery will find the next one immediately?

The good news is Cutler isn’t going anywhere unless Emery and coach Marc Trestman say good riddance.

It’s impossible to imagine Cutler signing a new deal for anything less than $100 million over six or seven years, with $45 million to $50 million guaranteed. If Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo are worth that money, Cutler is, too, and I don’t blame him for waiting.

Personally, I don’t think any of them are worth it — particularly Cutler, based on what he has accomplished so far.

The Bears have the option of making Cutler their franchise player. There’s certainly no one else on that list they would use the tag on, and they can continue to build around him and hope he will force them to show him the money based on his play next season.

That way, Trestman can continue to bring the Bears’ offense into the 21st century, and all will be right in Bears Nation, right?

Maybe not.

Defensively, we have no idea whether Paea, McClellin and Conte can play, and the early returns aren’t real promising. We know even less about Bostic and Greene.

Based on the ages and injuries to the other prospective free agents, the Bears might need a brand-new defense — all 11 spots.

So what can Emery do right now? Ah, there’s the other rub. The Bears are thought to have somewhere between $2.5 million and $3 million of cap space. If they reserve enough for emergencies, such as quarterback Jordan Palmer, and possibly more linebackers and defensive linemen, they can’t really afford to do much of anything.

But enough gloom. Let’s pretend it’s a perfect world and they can sign whomever they want.

To me, the two priority free agents are Gould and Tillman. Kickers aren’t a dime a dozen when you have one of the best, and Gould is that. And I think re-signing Tillman for two years or even three is worth it, whether he stays at cornerback or moves to safety, as so many great corners have near the end.

Other than that, I let everybody else hit the market and see who comes back when they learn the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

Whether Bears fans like it or not, it’s time to pay the piper on defense. Rebuilding is the only option.

With Cutler and his weapons together again with Trestman for at least one more season, there’s another year of hope and excitement on that side of the ball.

Then instead of spending all their time worrying about free agents for next season, fans can spend it praying Emery knows what he’s doing in the draft. That’s an open question for now, too.

Hub Arkush covers the
Bears for Shaw Media and
HubArkush.com .



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