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Bears’ free-agent moves leave Jay Cutler with no more excuses

MORE PIECES TO THE PUZZLE

Matt Forte once qualified as the only elite weapon at Jay Cutler’s disposal. But since the end of the 2011 season, the Bears have added to their offensive talent pool.

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Updated: March 14, 2013 1:25PM



If we could get our hands on some truth serum, I’d bet Jay Cutler would admit Tuesday was a better day than his wedding day July 13 will be.

Nothing against fiancée Kristin Cavallari and the upcoming nuptials, but she can’t protect Cutler’s blind side. She has enough on her plate trying to bring out his soft side.

Now it’s all up to Cutler. There shouldn’t be any more obstacles or excuses, not after Bears general manager Phil Emery bought him a top-notch left tackle in Jermon Bushrod and an excellent tight end in Martellus Bennett on the first day of free agency.

We are heading into the fifth season of Cutler in Chicago, with very little in the way of rewards or results. There are enough explanations for that to fill a book, many of them having to do with a lack of protection from the offensive line. But very little of what Cutler has done in Chicago has lived up to the hype that was waiting for him when he arrived in 2009.

Remember? He was a ‘‘franchise quarterback.’’ That was said by so many people with so much certainty that you half-expected Cutler to show up with the two words tattooed on his forehead.

What would that tattoo be now? Arby’s franchise quarterback?

But now he can change everything — his record, his image, his ringless fingers, his next contract, everything.

The one caveat, of course, is that Bushrod and Bennett might underwhelm, as so many players have after stepping foot inside Halas Hall. But think positively: Bushrod could be the left tackle for years, and Bennett could be the tight end the Bears haven’t had since (bow your head) Mike Ditka.

Add them to a good running back in Matt Forte and a receiver who wants the ball every play in Brandon Marshall, and you have the framework for an excellent offense. Now, about the rest of the offensive line . . .

Emery talked about winning champion- ships at a news conference Wednesday. The signings should mean that Cutler has more than enough to win with, to borrow a phrase from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

‘‘Winning a championship’s not on Jay Cutler,’’ Emery said. ‘‘Winning a championship’s on the Chicago Bears.’’

Fine, let’s rephrase the question. Do the Bears have a good enough offense?

‘‘That’s to be found out,’’ Emery said.

We don’t know about new coach Marc Trestman. We know all about his reputation as an offensive genius, but we just don’t know, you know? We do know he’s supposed to be a quarterback’s best friend. And if anyone is in need of a friend, it’s Cutler after his last two offensive coordinators.

So, no, this couldn’t play out any better for Cutler. He’s heading into a contract year, and if the Bears do the smart thing and wait to see what he does with — hey, look! — a real left tackle and real tight end, then he will make gobs of money from somebody. Cutler acknowledged on WMVP-AM (1000) on Wednesday that it doesn’t look as though a contract extension will get done this season.

If he doesn’t do well with these new pieces, then we finally will have the definitive answer on his abilities.

No more reading into his body language for answers. No more getting experts’ opinions about what’s wrong with his throwing mechanics. No more hearing excuses from his supporters.

We’ll know. And so will he, deep down.

Cutler should be particularly tickled about getting a new left tackle. It can’t be fun to stand in the pocket and have the distinct impression, based on history and open wounds, that a frothing defensive lineman is about to separate you from your head. Bushrod was a two-time Pro Bowl selection with the Saints.

Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns last season with the Giants. He already has talked with his friend Marshall about Cutler.

‘‘All he had to tell me was, ‘Man, you’re going to love Jay,’ ’’ Bennett said. ‘‘He just told me he’s a great guy, he’s a fiery guy who wants to win.’’

‘‘Good quarterback, man,’’ Bushrod said. ‘‘I’m excited about it. He’s a fiery-type guy. You’ve got to have that.’’

Depending on whom you talk with, Cutler’s either fiery or flammable. When he angrily bumped into left tackle J’Marcus Webb during a game last season, some teammates thought the fire was out of control.

But Wednesday was a new day, a fresh day. No flames anywhere. Just sunshine.



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