Bears tweak Jay Cutler’s deal, plan to honor Brian Urlacher
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter March 24, 2014 10:47PM
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) celebrates with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (54) after the Bears scored a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. The Bears beat the Titans 51-20. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)
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Updated: April 26, 2014 6:22AM
ORLANDO, Fla. — A seven-year, $126.7 million deal — with $54 million guaranteed — tells you how much the Bears value quarterback Jay Cutler.
But unbeknownst to Cutler, Bears chairman George McCaskey has been watching him. He sees a lot more to Cutler than the player with the rocket arm and the smarts who has won over coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery.
“I’ve seen the kind of person he is,” McCaskey said at the NFL owners meetings on Monday. “I’m convinced he has a good heart. He is a good person and does a lot of things that people don’t notice.
“And beyond that, he’s a good football player. So we’re excited.”
That would be excited that Cutler is signed long-term to be their franchise quarterback.
“We believe in Jay,” McCaskey said. “Phil and Marc make the personnel decisions, of course. They identified him as the key to our future, and [team president] Ted [Phillips] and I supported that. It was an easy decision. I’m a big fan of him personally.”
Cutler has undoubtedly emerged as the face of Trestman’s new-look Bears.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher hasn’t roamed the locker room for more than a year now, so Cutler is the undisputed leader.
McCaskey said the Bears would like to honor Urlacher, who had a bitter end with the team after 13 seasons. Urlacher, now retired, said during Super Bowl week in New York that he was indifferent about being honored by the Bears.
But a reconciliation might be in the works. McCaskey reached out to Urlacher recently — “I said, ‘I’d like to talk to you some time. I’ve got a couple of things I want to bounce off you.’’ But as of Monday afternoon, he was still waiting to hear back.
“We certainly want to recognize his great career at a time and place that’s suitable for him,” said McCaskey, who referred to the team’s Hall of Fame ambassador program. “We want a good relationship with all of our alumni. . . . Of course, Brian is a surefire, dead-bang Hall of Famer.
“But it’s got to be the right timing for him.”
Meanwhile, the Bears are all in with Cutler and Trestman. The Bears just restructured Cutler’s new deal to free up $4 million in salary-cap space by converting some of his $22.5 million base salary for 2014 into a $5 million signing bonus and prorating it over the first five years of the deal.
It’s no secret that Trestman has had a huge impact on Cutler. But Trestman’s impact isn’t limited to the quarterback room, McCaskey said.
“One of the things that impressed me the most was the dramatic impact [Trestman had] on the culture of the entire organization,” McCaskey said. “It wasn’t just the football team. It wasn’t just in the locker room. It wasn’t just on the practice field. He re-energized the building.
“His core values are in line with what comes from the top in [owner] Virginia McCaskey — others before self, group before individual. It’s just great to see. Staff [members] that aren’t normally associated with football operations are fired up about the impact he’s having in the building.”
That’s not a knock on former coach Lovie Smith, who McCaskey said shares similar values with Trestman. It’s simply important that things continue moving in a positive direction for the Bears.
The Bears’ on-the-field direction, of course, will be dictated by what Trestman and Cutler can do together.
“You can see [Trestman’s and Cutler’s connection] in practice,” McCaskey said. “You can see it in games. I think the fans in the stands can see it.”