When in doubt, follow the money.
It's the safest rule there is to follow in the NFL. It's the only explanation you need when trying to understand precisely where the Bears' confidence in Kyle Orton stood. The guy was going into the final year of his contract. The Bears were demanding more from Orton before showing him the money. That tells you right there how confident they were about him as their longterm quarterback.
General manager Jerry Angelo had some very kind things to say about Orton on a conference call earlier this evening. They were probably heartfelt. But Angelo's confidence in newly acquired Jay Cutler is far greater. The man who treats draft picks as if they're virtually untradeable forked over two first-rounders and a third-rounder. Ultimately, not having those picks could be a good thing for the Bears, or Angelo, any way.
And Cutler comes at a reasonable price. How reasonable?
He's due to earn $1.03 million this season. While he had already forfeited a workout bonus of $100,000 in Denver (the Bears know a few things about those forfeitures) he might be able to earn that dough here. If he follows his contract--which the Bears inherit--that states he has to appear at 90 percent of the offseason workout program to collect, he'll probably get it. We'll look into that when we can. But a hundred grand is a moot point. Cutler will actually cost less this season than Orton.
In 2010, his base salary climbs to $1.42 million and he has a roster bonus of $4 million. A small price to pay.
Then in 2011, the base salary rises to $1.81 million and he has a roster bonus of $12 million. By then, he figures to probably be in a new contract. There had been some speculation in Denver that he could have ultimately returned to the Broncos if the club "bought'' his trust back with a new contract. That didn't happen, of course. There were never even any talks.
"We have not talked to his agent [Bus Cook] about that,'' Angelo said.
Rest assured, the Bears will. Sooner rather than later. It might not happen this year, but Angelo didn't deal away those draft picks to get Cutler for three years. Think 10 years. I've kidded Angelo for some time now, asking him on occasion if he's just itching to write that monster contract for a quarterback. Since 2001, the Bears have invested less in terms of salary cap in the position than any team in the NFL. He'd always reply with a bellyaching laugh, which I translated to mean he'd whip out the checkbook in a heartbeat if he found a guy he deemed worthy of cashing that check.