Bears Free Up $2 Million With Julius Peppers Restructured Contract


In the scramble for salary cap space the Chicago Bears decided to restructure the contract of DE Julius Peppers to free up $2 million in cap. Per a source with knowledge of the contract, Peppers reduced his base salary from $12.9 million in 2013 to $9.9 million with the difference being prorated over the final three years of the contract.

Clearly the Bears could have gone much further with the restructure if needed, but the Bears are doing their best to manage the cap without doing much damage to future seasons. This $2 million in savings was likely the least amount the team felt they needed to function smoothly at the start of the 2013 league year. Peppers 2014 cap number will rise to $18.18 million and his dead money increases to $8.36 million, making him a target for either a June 1 cut designation or a candidate for a contract extension.

View Julius Peppers’ Contract and Salary Cap Page


State of Rebuild – Chicago Bears

How do you build a winning football team?  Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild.  The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.

State of the Franchise and Front Office

When the Bears hired Phil Emery to replace Jerry Angelo as General Manager a year ago, it was said that then Head Coach Lovie Smith was safe for the year.  With one of the most feared defenses in the league and a defensive-minded head coach, Emery made it a priority to improve a struggling offense by trading a pair of 3rd round picks to the Miami Dolphins for mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall.  The defense continued its dominance in 2012, but despite an All-Pro season from Brandon Marshall, the Bears offense overall struggled again and ranked near the bottom of the league.  Despite the poor offense, the Bears managed to finish the season 10-6, with all 6 of their losses coming at the hands of playoff teams.  However, 10 wins were not enough to make the playoffs, losing a tiebreaker to the division rival Vikings, nor enough to convince Emery to retain Lovie Smith (or his long-time defensive anchor Brian Urlacher).  Again looking to improve the Bears offense, Emery hired offensive-minded Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman to fill the vacated head coaching position.

trestman emery

HC Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery

Trestman spent 17 years in the NFL, mostly as an offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach, before becoming the head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes.  Trestman lead the Alouettes to three Grey Cup appearances and back-to-back- championships in 2009 and 2010.  Personally, as a law student, the most interesting aspect of Trestman’s road to the NFL is prior to joining the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as a volunteer coach and quarterback’s coach; Trestman earned his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law and became a member of the Florida bar.

Contract Strategies and Trends

Finishing up his second offseason as General Manager, Emery has utilized standard roster bonuses, per-game roster bonuses, and workout bonuses to continue the improvement of the Bears offense.  After slapping the franchise tag on running back Matt Forte last year, and a contentious negotiation, the Bears and Forte agreed to a four-year extension through 2015 worth roughly $30.4 million.  Forte’s deal has a few nuances worth taking a look at.

The first of which is why Forte had a $5 million roster bonus due in the first year of his extension in 2012 compared to such a low P5 (base) salary of $800,000.  I am assuming that the roster bonus is paid up front and is not deferred, which is sometimes the case.  I first came across a scenario like this when looking at Paul Kruger’s new deal with the Cleveland Browns (Julius Peppers has a similar structure that was done under former GM Jerry Angelo).  Kruger is due a $6,285,000 roster bonus compared to his $715,000 P5 (base) salary in 2013, the first year of his new deal.  At first I could not wrap my head around the purpose of this.  Forte and Kruger were both guaranteed to make the team in the first year of their deals, so why make that guaranteed money a roster bonus and not just guaranteed P5 (base) salary or part of the signing bonus?  After some discussions with Jason and a little digging into the CBA, a few reasons made sense.

From the team’s point of view, they are creating cap flexibility by limiting 3rd year guarantees and higher prorated bonus hits by guaranteeing the money up front in a roster bonus.  This could be done through the P5 (base) salary as well, but players prefer to have the money up front rather than later in increments.  The trade-off for the team is a higher cap hit in year 1 of the deal, but with lower guarantees later, making it easier for the team to move on.  A look at Forte’s contract shows that he is not guaranteed any money in 2014 and 2015 and the only possible dead money costs would be the prorated amount of his signing bonus of $1 million each year, a cost of only $2 million to move on before the 2014 season and $1 million before the 2015 season with cap savings of $5,500,000 and $7,800,000 respectively.

From the player’s perspective, receiving the guaranteed money in the form of a roster bonus presents two interesting perks.  The first of which is rather simple and was mentioned earlier – when given the choice of receiving a $5,000,000 bonus, would you rather receive it in one lump sum up front or in weekly, monthly, or even yearly increments?  NFL players, like everyone else,  prefer to have that cash in hand as soon as possible; which is why they prefer the guaranteed amount in a lump sum roster bonus as opposed to P5 (base) salary in game checks.  The second perk for the players derives itself from one simple sentence in the CBA, which states,

“With respect to roster bonus, option bonus and reporting bonus, a forfeiture may only occur if the Forfeitable Breach occurs in the same League Year in which the bonus is scheduled to be earned.”

What this means is unless the player receiving the roster bonus, in this case Matt Forte, had breached his contract to the point where a forfeiture of salary was in order, the breach had to be in 2012, the same league year in which the roster bonus was received.  If Forte breaches his contract during the 2013 season, his $5 million dollar roster bonus would not be part of his possible salary forfeiture.  In contrast, if the same $5 million had been part of the player’s signing bonus or P5 (base) salary, the signing bonus money can always be attacked regardless of which year the breach occurred in or the player could forfeit P5 (base) salary if suspended.

The other interesting part about Forte’s contract is use of both standard and per-game roster bonuses throughout his deal.  On top of the $5 million standard roster bonus Forte received in 2012, he is due a $4 million standard roster bonus and $468,750 in per-game roster bonuses.  The 2013 per-game roster bonus is actually $31,250 per game but because Forte missed one game in 2012, for cap purposes the per-game roster bonus is treated as a LTBE (likely to be earned) incentive.  If Forte plays in all 16 games this year, he will earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses (31,250 x 16) and his cap number will be adjusted up accordingly.  The opposite is also true if Forte plays less than 15 games.  Forte is also due per-game roster bonuses of $53,125 per game in 2014 and $65,625 per game in 2015 as well as yearly $100,000 workout bonuses.

Another tool Emery has used to add veteran players without compromising future cap space is the Minimum Salary Benefit.  For a more detailed description of how the MSB works, click here to look at an article Jason wrote earlier this year.  The long and short of the MSB’s purpose is to help teams avoid signing a younger player over a veteran if the main reason is cost.  The CBA mandates a higher minimum salary for veterans based on how many years they have played in the league.  The choice of a cheaper younger player or an older more expensive veteran provides little incentive for the team to choose the veteran.  The MSB looks to provide an incentive to choose veterans who if not for the mandated CBA salary would likely play for cheaper to stay in the league.  Veterans have to meet the following criteria, which I grabbed from Jason’s article, in order to qualify for a MSB contract.

All players with at least 4 credited seasons are eligible for the MSB. However, to qualify for MSB treatment your contract has to meet specific criteria, explained as follows:

1.  The contract must only be 1 year in length

2.  Additional compensation can not exceed $65,000 in 2013 (this number rises by $15,000 every 3 years, with the next increase set for 2015), and that includes bonuses from other teams

3.  P5 guarantees can not exceed the P5 salary of a 2nd year player, which is $555,000 in 2013

The end result is veteran players who qualify can be signed and paid their mandated minimum salary but for cap purposes are only charged the amount it would sign for a player who has been in the league for 2 seasons.  The Bears have used the MSB on a handful of players including Zack Bowman, Jonathan Scott, and Kelvin Hayden, who was just lost for the season with a hamstring tear.

A quick look at the two major free agent signings for the Bears this offseason shows a very simple contractual setup. Left Tackle Jermon Bushrod received a 5-year/$35.965 million deal with $11.715 million guaranteed while Tight End Martellus Bennett received a 4-year/$20.4 million deal with $5.215 million guaranteed.  Both players received the first year of their deal guaranteed ($715,000 each), with no roster bonuses, and a yearly $100,000 workout bonus.

Biggest Upcoming Roster Decisionbears FA

The Bears are not rebuilding.  They weren’t rebuilding last year and they aren’t rebuilding this year.  They finished last season 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs.  They also are loaded with talent, having four All-Pro’s last year, with WR Brandon Marshall and CB Charles Tillman earning 1st Team honors and DE Julius Peppers and CB Tim Jennings earning 2nd team honors.  So why do I think the Bears should be looked at during our State of Rebuild Series?  A glance at the free agency statuses of the projected offensive, defensive, and special teams starters should help provide a little clarity.

Through most of the offseason, the fact that so many projected starters will be free agents after the 2013 season was enough for many pundits to speculate that Emery would be doing a serious roster overhaul next offseason.  Jason actually took a look at the Bears current status and upcoming decisions in his article The Chicago Bears: Past, Present, and Future, which touches on a lot of the premises discussed here.  With starting quarterback Jay Cutler, franchised defensive tackle Henry Melton, strong safety Major Wright and All-Pro cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman among others all set to be free agents after this season, the team was set to look a little different even with a few extensions.  Then Emery said this,

“…where we’re at with our current salary cap and the room that we have in our cap in our efforts to put together a championship team in 2013, I do not anticipate that we will do any extensions of contracts during this season. All those will occur, with the players it will occur with, will happen in 2014 and not during the 2013 season.”

While the Bears do only have $2,192,768 of cap room right now, after saving $555,000 with the release of DE Jamaal Anderson today, a few extensions could easily create some sizable room. Emery’s decision to wait on any possible extensions until after the 2013 season only furthers the speculation that this year’s Chicago Bears could look considerably different than next year’s team.  Considering that it would cost nothing for the Bears to move on from WR Brandon Marshall, $1 million to move on from OLB Lance Briggs, and $2 million to move on from RB Matt Forte, if they wished to do so, we could be looking at a possible ground-zero rebuild going into next offseason.  The fact of the matter is if this team flourishes under new head coach Marc Trestman, all of this is moot.  But for now, it remains a very plausible possibility that the Chicago Bears will be rebuilding next year.

So what is actually the single biggest upcoming roster decision for the Chicago Bears?  It could be what to do with All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers in the event of a full rebuild.  Peppers is still due almost $37 million between the 2014 and 2015 season, and would cost $6,366,668 in dead money if cut or traded before 2014 and $3,183,335 if cut or traded before 2015.  It is highly unlikely that the Bears would outright release Peppers, but how much could they really fetch in a trade for a 34 or 35 year old defensive end?  If I had to pick one, it is whether to retain Jay Cutler.  Jason coincidentally wrote an enlightening article here, describing how Cutler’s market value may not match his play-level – barring a Joe Flacco -esque stock rise after his Super Bowl run.  However the simple answer is to close your eyes and throw a dart at the depth chart.  The question isn’t which single player presents the biggest question mark but rather whether the team as a whole will be remade.

Past ‘State of Rebuild’ Articles

Buffalo Bills

San Diego Chargers

Ryan Feder
Tulane University Law School
J.D. Candidate 2015

Is Jay Cutler Worth Even Close to $20 Million a Season?


Mike Sando had an interesting piece on ESPN yesterday looking at the big free agent QB’s and prices they may command (subscription required).  Unfortunately its an insider piece but since posted some comments from it we’ll do the same here. Sando was able to get a cap manager of one of the teams to discuss some potential contracts for players. This was the one that floored me and everyone else:

Jay Cutler is going to eventually get $20 million no matter how much he deserves it. I think there will be a team desperate for a quarterback who doesn’t like the quarterbacks in the draft. Maybe they think they’re close and the GM says Jay Cutler is no different from Joe Flacco, that you can win a championship with him. It just takes one of 32 teams to make that judgment, and I think there’s a good chance someone will. Cutler can still be pretty darn good.

I have to admit I was stunned that a person in charge of managing the cap for his team would believe that Cutler would fetch $20 million dollars per year. Currently there are only four players in the $20 million dollar per year club- Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers.  Each is there for a number of reasons. Brees is a prolific passer who was a Super Bowl MVP. Flacco is considered to have tremendous upside and put together a tremendous stretch of games that culminated in his Super Bowl MVP trophy.  Its also worth noting that Flacco was only going to receive around $16 million a year before the Super Bowl win and the Ravens were not going to hand him $20 milion a year because “you can win with a guy like Flacco”. Matt Ryan is considered the best young passer in the NFL and looks to be on his way to becoming a 5,000 yard passer. Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL, putting up tremendous statistics and winning a large amount of games.  Cutler is not even in the discussion right now with these four players.

I think sometimes we forget that Cutler is not a young player anymore. There is an argument to be made that Matt Ryan was paid on the dreaded P word- “Potential”.  Now in Ryan’s case it was the potential to win a Super Bowl not be a great passer as he had already established himself as a passer. It is the same reason Philip Rivers became the second highest paid QB in the NFL in 2009. He had enough numbers and success to convince teams that he was going to win it all just like Eli Manning. Ryan and Rivers, in the season of signing, were both 28, right about to enter the prime of their careers. Jay Cutler will be 31 when he takes the field for a new team in 2014.

Potential doesn’t come into play over 30 and it should never cloud the judgment of a team. Cutler’s “potential” year came off his last season in Denver when he threw for 4,500 yards and looked like he had that Rivers/Ryan potential. The Bears traded for Cutler the following season and did extend him at just under $14.7 million a year in new money, which was near the top of the market at the time, but he opted for the short term extension assuming he would cash in after winning some big games for Chicago where Cutler was to be the missing piece to the puzzle. That money was based on potential.

Four years later and no potential was realized. His numbers have plummeted while the average QB numbers, in general, have risen. He has thrown for less yards in his last two healthy seasons than Mark Sanchez of the Jets.  You don’t go back to what a player did at 25 when he is 31 to come up with a pricing point.

It doesn’t mean Cutler has had an easy time of it in Chicago. They have had a revolving door of bad offensive coaches, bad decision makers selecting poor wide receivers and horrific offensive lineman. Cutler did himself no favors either as he carries himself with a bit of an attitude that rubbed many players, specifically veteran defenders, the wrong way. Players didn’t come to his defense and I don’t think he ever assumed a leadership role with the team.

The highest end comparisons you could make for Cutler are Matt Schaub of the Texans and Tony Romo of the Cowboys. Schaub was 31 when he signed his extension and Romo will be 33 this season. Schaub earns $15.5 million a season while Romo earns an inflated $18 million. Neither comes close to $20 million. One of the difficult items in comparing Cutler to other players is the pressure he deals with in Chicago. Last year Cutler saw pressure on 37.5% of his dropbacks according to Pro Football Focus. Romo and Schaub are closer to 30%. That said Cutler deals with it well and is one of the rare QB’s who has very limited decline statistically under duress, perhaps because he is so used to dealing with it. Last season Cutler completed 60.5% of his non-pressured passes and 54.1% of his pressure attempts.

Looking at the last two more or less healthy seasons of work for each QB and breaking things down into yards per pass attempt by throw distance you get the following look at the players:

Jay Cutler YPA

Cutler is considerably less effective than both Romo and Schaub passing down the field and for most QB’s this is where they get paid, not by throwing little dink and dunk passes. For what it’s worth the presence of Brandon Marshall did little to the results and his yardage totals actually decreased, significantly in the 10 to 19 yard category, in 2012 compared to 2010.  I often look at something I call incremental yards which more or less measures actual yardage produced by distance compared to the average NFL QB.

jay cutler incremental yards

Romo pretty much makes his living throwing the ball down the field while Schaub is an intermediate passer. Cutlers failures down the field have made him an average QB overall. Part of that is the Bears offensive design faults and some may be Cutler’s decision making. Romo completes over 40% of his passes over 20 yards. Cutler completes only 28.5%, yet Cutler’s pass selection sees 15.6% of his passes travel over 20 yards while Romo is under 12%.

Those decisions hurt Cutler even more than just yardage, but also in turnovers.  Schaub only throws 9.2% of his passes deep because there is no upside to him doing so.  Even though he completes over 36% of his down the field passes his interceptions per attempt are 8.7%. That works out to a 23.8% interception to completion ratio which is a ridiculous number, so the Texans just avoid it. Cutler is at 8.3% I/A and a whopping 28.9% I/C. Someone needs to just have him stop those passes. Despite the arm strength that is not his game in Chicago and may not be anywhere else.

The bottom line is that he is nowhere near as productive as your next tier of salaried QB’s. I think you can argue about Romo vs Schaub and make a strong case that Romo’s salary should be closer to Schaub’s, but I’m not sure the rationale behind arguing that Cutler should make as much as either of the 30+ year old players, let alone $20 million a season.

The most realistic data point for Cutler should be that of Carson Palmer. Palmer is one of the “potential” graded QB’s simply because of where he was drafted and how he played very early in his career. By the time his days were coming to an end in Cincinnati he was unproductive, even moreso than Cutler, but the distance passing results were nearly identical:

Jay Cutler vs Carson Palmer

The major difference is just the short yardage passing which helped him produce more productive yards than Palmer. Because of his limitations Palmer rarely threw the football deep(8.2% of his attempts)  as a Bengal, a model maybe the Bears should consider with Cutler. The Raiders ended up trading for Palmer in 2011 and then extending his contract for cap relief.

Palmer, a former number 1 pick that the Raiders had bet the farm on, only received a deal worth $10.75 million per year. The Raiders were, at the time, the worst managed team in football and that figure represented a 40% decline from Peyton Manning’s top of the market $18 million per year contract from the Colts. Palmer was 32 years old and 7 years removed from his draft when he signed with Oakland, very similar to Cutler’s situation next year. The Raiders traded Palmer in 2013.

If we bring those dollar figures into today’s salary market, Cutler should be looking at a deal worth $13.1 million a season, a far cry from the $20 million mentioned by the cap manager. Cutler is a bit better than Palmer so maybe we push that to $14 million, but that range is likely going to max out somewhere below $15 million. Those figures are assuming the Raiders contract with Palmer was considered legitimate in the eyes of the rest of the NFL. Given their history it may have been viewed as an inflated price tag.

Of course we can throw this all out the window if Cutler goes out and wins a Super Bowl and is named Super Bowl MVP. If that occurs he has something that Romo, Schaub and Palmer do not, and as we have seen with Eli Manning and Flacco, albeit at a much younger age, the Super Bowl trophy means big dollars to teams. I still don’t think this would bring him to $20 million a year but it may at least be a discussion since teams are certainly showing a willingness to spend big on the plus 30 QB. But without it there is no way a team can pay him based on what they have seen for 8 seasons.

Cutler will have another coach this year that is supposed to be an offensive expert. He has his old buddy Marshall again at Wide Receiver and they brought in Martellus Bennett to play Tight End. The team signed a new Left Tackle and Left Guard. They still have a capable runner and pass catcher out of the backfield in Matt Forte. Cutler is going to need to see his stats go way up this season and see the team go into the playoffs to bring himself into the Schaub/Romo conversation. If he continues to be the same QB we have seen I just can not picture a team going long term into Cutler at the upper tier price level.  Moderate price, sure, but the upper level is going to be very difficult for him to achieve without going on a tremendous run in 2013.


Best & Worst Contracts: The Chicago Bears


A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Charles TillmanBest Contract: Charles Tillman

Tillman has been one of the better corners in the NFL for the last 4 or 5 years. He is a perfect player for the schemes that the Bears have run in his tenure in Chicago and he has done it all playing on a low cost contract that averages just over $6.1 million a season. The $6.1 million dollar figure has become a steal in an era where cornerbacks began making over $10 million a season. To put it in perspective the year Tillman signed his contract, 2007, was the same year Nate Clements signed a shocking $64 million dollar contract with the 49’ers.   Since then Tillman has been to two Pro Bowls while Clements was finally cut once the salary cap allowed in 2011 before heading over to play with the Bengals at a fraction of the cost.

Tillman never compromised the Bears salary cap in all his years in Chicago. The Bears frontloaded the cap charges of the deal, using up cap room, and trying to align his cap dollars with what they felt his performance might be as he got older, except Tillman got better rather than worse. From 2008 thru 2012 the Bears paid less than $5 million a year in cap dollars for what turned out to be a Pro Bowl player.   Chicago could have easily escaped the deal in 2011 had he not become a great player.

In 2013 Tillman will make $8 million in both cash and cap. The year was thrown in to simply inflate the total value of the contract. There was no dead money in the season and at the time every report referred to 2013 as a “dummy year”. Now the “dummy year” is here and even at $8 million the Bears have no need to let someone as valuable as Tillman leave. I got the chance to discuss once with someone who worked in the League, among other things, about what is and is not a bad contract and I’ll always remember how he told me that a deal that plays out to the end is pretty much a great deal. And that is exactly what the Bears have with Tillman. A great deal.

devin hesterWorst Contract: Devin Hester

The Bears don’t have too many really bad deals and I could have gone to a handful of spots with this choice (those who have read all of these likely know how much I want to put Matt Forte down), but the Hester contract was all about buying into a hype machine that never should have existed beyond fans and Sportscenter. Yes Devin Hester is a spectacular punt/kick returner, but there is a big difference between catching a punt and running with it and catching a ball in the middle of the field and doing the same. The Bears assumed that he would catch the ball and be lighting in open space.

All it took was two years for the Bears to convince themselves Hester needed to be a wide receiver. Now they still had him under contact for two seasons where they could have experimented with the idea but rather than doing that they signed him to a 4 year extension averaging close to $5.5 million a year, way overpaying for a punt returner and putting him right in the upper echelon of the tier 2 WR.  The Bears even took it a step further giving him opportunities to max the contract out at $8 million a season if he ever developed into a star WR. Why? Only they can tell you, but if you are willing to give an early extension like this usually you want the upside to come cheap. They just gave him a raise with a chance to push it even further.

With Hester being pushed into the full time WR role his return game disappeared. His punt return yards fell below 8 per return. There were no punt or kickoff returns for scores. The Bears wasted two years of his real talent to justify their investment in him as a wide receiver, force feeding the ball as a number 1 target. There was no explosion as a WR and he never developed into the role.  Finally they pulled back and let him do more returning and be a third or fourth target in the offense.

In fairness to the Bears the backend of his contract never hurt that badly since they did extend him early allowing money to be frontloaded into the deal preparing the backend for raises due to performance.  Hester could have been cut last season with about $1.7 million in dead money.  He will likely be battling for a roster spot on the cap strapped Bears, who only have about $1.6 million in space and are reluctant to extend any players for cap relief. Cutting Hester saves the team $1.857 million.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans

AFC West: Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersSan Diego Chargers

NFC East: Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington Redskins

NFC North: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions (July 18)



Contract Year Series, Jay Cutler


Jay Cutler #6 QB, Chicago Bears

by Paul Carrozzo

Marc Trestman has been brought in as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears this off-season. Although Trestman has never been the head man at this level, his resume is impressive especially in the area of quarterback improvement. Only Bernie Kosar, in his injury/ heavy drinking part of his career, declined under Trestman’s tutelage. Whether Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, Rich Gannon or their CFL cohort Anthony Calvillo, each player’s productivity spiked when playing for him.

The Bears offensive line struggles were well documented in 2012. The additions of Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson in free agency along with the 20th pick in the 2013 draft, Kyle Long, significantly improved a line that allowed Cutler to be sacked 38 times last year. Slauson is known as a much better pass blocker than run blocker and the Bears were comfortable with the trade off in an effort to keep Cutler upright. Bushrod comes over from New Orleans where he has spent much of his time protecting Drew Brees.

The skill positions will see an upgrade with Alshon Jeffery looking to take a giant leap forward in his sophomore season. Pairing Jeffery with the Brandon Marshall and the addition of Martellus Bennett at TE places Culter as the recipient of an upgraded crop of receivers. Matt Forte will be another year removed from knee surgery and will also be a threat in the new Trestman passing offense.

The surrounding cast is set for Cutler to showcase his skills this year. For the Bears, forcing Cutler to play out the final year of his contract makes absolute sense, considering no one really knows how he will fit in Trestman’s offense. Maybe more importantly is the Bears salary cap situation which will almost force a liquidation of the Bears roster at the conclusion of the 2013 season. When a big market franchise needs to rebuild, they tend to re-sign fan favorites. Cutler, like Trestman, rubs people the wrong way and is not at the top of the fan’s list. One thing that would vault him there is a Super Bowl victory which has eluded this franchise since another pair of eccentric personalities ran the show.

Estimated New Contract: 4 years, $58mm

Looking Back at the Contractual History of Brian Urlacher

One of the most difficult things for players and fans to see happen is when their legendary players are no longer wanted by a teams front office. Such is the case right now with the Bears’ Brian Urlacher who was offered all of $2 million dollars, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun Times, to continue to remain a member of the Bears. Urlacher was insulted by the offer and now says he will play for another team.

In some instances I think teams will fall on the salary cap as a crutch, saying it just cant work because of the salary cap.  I believe it was on Mike and Mike the other morning on ESPN that they were saying how the NFL needs to find a way for cap exemptions for such players, similar to the Bird clauses in the NBA. I don’t think the Bears ever said that in this situation, but in most cases I think it is just a team saying it is time to move on and trying to use the cap as an excuse. Urlacher will be 35 years old when the 2013 season begins. Not many teams are willing to go deep into a player that old.

I am sure in Urlacher’s mind and heart that he feels he is the Ray Lewis of Chicago. When Lewis was 34 years old the Ravens did not go out of their way to re-sign their star ILB. Lewis at the time hoped to negotiate with the New York Jets, among other teams, but that never really got off the ground. Teams had an idea that Lewis was just going to go back with the Ravens with an offer. The Jets instead signed Bart Scott, far less accomplished but 5 years younger, to a 6 year $48 million dollar deal with nearly $22 million in fully guaranteed money. Lewis had to settle for a $6.357 million dollar a year contract with only $6.25 million in firm guarantees. The Jets were ready to cut Scott by 2012 while Lewis’ team won the Super Bowl and he promptly retired. The age thing can sometimes be overrated and I would think Urlacher feels the same way. According to Jensen Urlacher was looking for $11 million over 2 years which is less then Lewis received in the first two years of his final contract, but somewhat in line with the annual value.


Unfortunately for Urlacher he and his agent may have made some mistakes along the way which didn’t allow him the opportunity to be free at an age of 32 or 33 when he may have had a chance to earn more money. In 2003, after just 3 seasons in the NFL, he agreed to a 7 year extension that would keep him under contract in Chicago until he was 34 years old. With the landscape of the league changing Urlacher then tacked another year onto the deal in 2008 to bring his APY more in line with the rest of the NFL. This would not allow him to taste free agency until the season he was set to turn 35. Had they opted for a shorter extension early on he may not be in the situation he is in now trying to find a team in a soft market where no veteran players are finding homes.

All that being said Urlacher has had a fine career with the Bears and been paid incredibly well for his time in the NFL. Though he missed out on his free agency time Urlacher ended up earning around $78,525,000 from the Bears. Ray Lewis, who in fairness began four years earlier, only earned $68,775,000 over the first 13 years of his career.  He needed to play longer to match Urlacher’s compensation. Both are Hall Of Fame players but Lewis is in the argument for greatest middle linebacker of all time, Urlacher is not. Urlacher is understandably upset at the organization right now, but the Bears have treated him very well over his tenure in Chicago and hopefully people do not lose sight of that at the potential end of the relationship.