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Bears not looking to ‘franchise’ Jay Cutler

What would you like Bears to do with Cutler?





Bears GM Phil Emery on Jay Cutler's future
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Updated: December 3, 2013 10:49PM



If Jay Cutler stays with the Bears, it likely won’t be a one-year proposition.

General manager Phil Emery said in an online chat Tuesday that paying Cutler under the franchise tag for one season — rather than using it as a means to negotiate a longer deal — would harm the team’s ability to sign other players.

The non-exclusive franchise-tag figure for quarterbacks next season is projected to be around $16.2 million, based on the average cost of franchise quarterback figures over the last five years and the percentage of the salary cap.

If the Bears franchise Cutler in February, they’d have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal.

If the Bears, Cutler and agent Bus Cook can’t agree on a longer deal, the team would be stuck with a salary Emery thinks is onerous.

“With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position, to use it and not sign the individual to a long-term deal hurts the team,” Emery wrote on Bears.com, “because you lose the ability to prorate the amount of guaranteed salary over the length of the contract.”

Signing Cutler to a long-term deal would lower his cap hit from the $16.2 million franchise salary. He’s making $8.47 million in the last season of a five-year, $50.37 million deal.

“Obviously, the lower the number in relation to the salary cap,” Emery wrote, “the more players you can sign to help your team reach its goals.”

More than half the team — including cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, returner Devin Hester, center Roberto Garza and kicker Robbie Gould — will be free agents after the season. So will Josh McCown, who has been outstanding as Cutler’s backup.

“We like both Jay and Josh,” wrote Emery, who called this upcoming offseason his toughest to date, “and we’ll be working after the season to address both their contract situations.”

Cutler has completed 167 of 265 passes for 1,908 yards, 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions in eight games, missing four with a high left-ankle sprain and torn left groin.

He said last week his injury “obviously doesn’t help the situation” when trying to predict his future.

“In this business,” Cutler said on his radio show, “availability is the No. 1 priority.”

Players typically abhor the franchise tag, preferring signing bonuses and up-front money on a multiyear deal.

Defensive tackle Henry Melton played under the franchise tag this season but tore his ACL and likely harmed his future earning potential.

Cutler said last week that “he’s not going to take anything personally” if the Bears tag him.

“If they want to franchise me,” he said on his radio show, “I’m gonna feel good about the situation we’re in.”

He joked that he “might be like, ‘I’m gonna miss a few OTAs and go on an extra vacation,’ ” but that he’d return eventually.

“Well, you just don’t show up for a little while,” he said. “But everyone at some point comes back to work, right?’’

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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