When the Bears entered the regular season with close to $20 million in available salary cap space, you knew a good chunk of it was earmarked for Jay Cutler.
The quarterback cashed in tonight as he received a two-year contract extension that is worth nearly $30 million with $20 million guaranteed. It gets Cutler under contract now through 2013, and allows the Bears to have him for five seasons without paying the kind of huge money that Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have pulled down recently. Of course, if Cutler wins and the Bears win, he'll probably be back to the bargaining table with them well before this deal expires.
Cutler was playing under the $47 million, six-year contract he received as a first-round draft pick with the Denver Broncos. He was signed for three seasons when the Bears traded for him in April, and it was understood at the time that a deal would be forthcoming for him. The Bears didn't trade first- and third-round picks and Kyle Orton to use him for three seasons.
The Bears are 3-2 and some miscues by Cutler have been responsible for both losses, but he's added a dimension to the offense that simply hasn't been present before. Fifth-round draft pick Johnny Knox is turning into a star and fellow wide receiver Earl Bennett has developed as the team promised he would.
Now, Cutler has to take care of the business of guiding his first team to the playoffs. Then the Bears will see a payoff on their investment.