[from The A.V. Club Chicago / October 22, 2009]
With yesterday’s two-year $30 million extension of quarterback Jay Cutler’s contract, the Chicago Bears landed a nice discount on their franchise-worthy star through his 30th birthday while also solidifying the next several years of their offensive game. The move was certainly a bargain and a wise personnel decision, but it goes beyond that: The A.V. Club finds Cutler’s new deal has completely redefined the Bears as fans know them.
The Bears finally have a quarterback worth the investment
Chicago football history, much to the chagrin of its fans (and delight of its rivals), has been primarily defined by stellar defenses and second-rate (or, more often, third-rate) quarterbacks. While certain players may have enjoyed a good season or two, none in at least 30 years has inspired enough confidence in either fans or team management to give the words “long-term contract” much appeal. With their offensive centerpiece set, fans and players alike can look forward to the team strengthening itself rather than apologies, excuses, and non-affirmations from coach Lovie Smith.
The team will have the money to pay for sufficient talent
When the Bears first traded for Cutler, the biggest concern was not how Cutler would fare, but exactly to whom he was supposed to throw his laser beam passes. Cutler will certainly cost the Bears a considerable amount, but the Bears also guarantee they’ll pay less than market value for an elite quarterback in 2012 and 2013. While the Bears’ passing game has been decent so far in 2009, the Bears have effectively secured a future discount on a player capable of elevating the team to contender level while simultaneously freeing up money to sign top free agents later in Cutler’s tenure—or to retain the good ones. Wide receivers Earl Bennett (a free agent after the 2011 season) and Johnny Knox (under team control through the 2012 season) are poised to flourish under Cutler’s watch.
30 is a good time for Cutler to walk
Erik Kramer, Jim Harbaugh, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart: four Bears quarterbacks whose rapid decline in Chicago coincided almost perfectly with their 30th birthdays. In fairness, Kramer had a fantastic season at age 31, and Harbaugh went to the conference finals at 32—but those seasons were the exception, not the rule: Kramer played terribly all of his other seasons in Chicago, and Harbaugh only found success by going to the Indianapolis Colts. Cutler may still be a fine quarterback by the end of his contract, but the Bears no longer have to worry about what happens once their young gun enters his (relatively) old age.