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Why deal made sense for Jay Cutler and Bears

Updated: February 4, 2014 10:29AM

As it turns out, Jay Cutler needs the Bears as much as the Bears need Jay Cutler. That’s how a $126 million deal gets done in three days.

‘‘Whenever you have two groups that want to work in the same direction and want the same thing to happen, it can happen pretty easily,’’ Cutler said Thursday after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Bears that includes $54 million in guaranteed money. ‘‘We come in high. They come in low, and ultimately you’re going to meet in the middle. That’s how it worked out.’’

Mutual interest between the Bears and Cutler could not have been much greater after Cutler had a career-best 89.2 rating and the Bears had the second-highest scoring team in the NFL in 2013, despite finishing 8-8 and out of the playoffs.

Bears general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman identified Cutler as a franchise quarterback and leader who can help them win the Super Bowl.

‘‘We all knew he had the skill set,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘Playing [quarterback], it’s not about skill set — you have to have the mental and physical toughness to be able to be at your best when everything is caving in around you. And I think Jay has clearly shown that he can do that, on multiple levels.’’

Cutler, in turn, recognized the best comfort zone he’s probably ever going to have in the NFL — a quarterback-centric coach in Trestman whose demeanor is a perfect complement to Cutler’s sometimes headstrong ways, an offensive line that will protect him, and weapons that provide the margin-for-error he needs.

And, of course, the invaluable commodity of continuity. Even if Cutler signed for more money elsewhere, he’d have been playing for his sixth offensive coordinator and fourth head coach in seven years.

‘‘It’s huge,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘If you ask any quarterback, being in an offense numerous years, being around the same people, hearing the same play calls, that’s what it’s all about. The group of guys we have, especially offensively, they’re going to make it much easier.’’

Cutler, who will turn 31 in April, likely could have made more money elsewhere. But the only way Cutler was going to test the free-agent market, he said, was if the Bears forced him to. They did not, coming up with a generous yet apparently cap-friendly deal that works for both sides. It pays Cutler a living wage. And it gives Emery room to fortify a defense that finished 25th in the NFL in total yards and 32nd against the run in 2013. That’s kind of how it’s supposed to work.

At 30, Cutler already has made $60 million in the NFL. But in eight years, he’s made the playoffs one time, started two postseason games and finished only one. It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what makes the guy tick, but it’s good to know that with his career at a crossroads, Cutler is motivated not by money, but by opportunity. Maturity, indeed.

‘‘I can’t speak for every player, but you get to a certain point ... what’s the most important part of your career?’’ Cutler said. ‘‘Do you want to say, ‘Hey, I made X amount of dollars?’ Or, ‘Hey, I won championships?’

‘‘I talked to guys like Forte and BMarsh and Garza
and all the guys: We’re here to win championships. That was my thought process. Whether it’s $15 million or $22 million, it’s hard to spend all of that in your lifetime. [Actress] Kristin [Cavallari] said she’ll help, but we’ve reached the amount of money where we’re going to be taken care of. It’s fair for both sides, so hopefully we can continue to get players that are going to help this organization win.”


Twitter: @MarkPotash

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