Chicago Sun-Times

Going beyond the Cutler deal, what's next for the Bears?

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The Jay Cutler contract extension on Tuesday night sets the quarterback to be on board for the same length of time as general manager Jerry Angelo, who is also signed through 2013. The Bears took advantage of their surplus of salary cap this season--they had nearly $20 million available when the season began--and applied a chunk of the space to this season's cap.

Cutler gets some security with $20 million of the $30 million in new money guaranteed, and that was significant for him with the chance of a lockout in 2011 when he had a $12 million roster bonus due. If he plays like the Bears believe he is capable of--and they think the sky is the limit--they'll be back to the bargaining table before this deal is done. Cutler is now set to make roughly $50 million over the next five seasons and elite quarterbacks are already in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. But with two years after this one remaining on his rookie contract, Cutler didn't have a lot of leverage. Remember, his contract is one thing he never talked about in wanting out of Denver as a 25-year-old Pro Bowl performer.

So where does this leave the Bears? Well, they have a quarterback to build around longterm right now, and early results show things are working well with his young wide receivers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Are there any players the Bears would seek an extension with now during the remainder of the season? It's possible, you can't rule anything out, but it looks unlikely at this point.

Let's review when contracts are up for the team:

2009: DE Mark Anderson, S Josh Bullocks, S Danieal Manning, LB Darrell McClover, DE Adewale Ogunleye, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Nick Roach, LB Tim Shaw, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, DT Matt Toeaina, LB Jamar Williams

Comment: With the possibility of an uncapped year hanging over the game, the Bears will be able to control most of these players (if they want to) if there is not an extension of the CBA. The only players coming out of contract who are ensured of being unrestricted free agents are McClover, Ogunleye, Peterson and Tinoisamoa. Coach Lovie Smith has been excited about Manning, but we haven't seen a lot from him on defense so far. As often as the Bears have gone hot and then cold on him, it might make sense to take the chance at a one-year tender on him to wait and see some consistency. Of course, the revolving door at safety will not stop until the Bears get some players they can plug in and count on. Ogunleye is an interesting case. Angelo said the trade for Gaines Adams didn't have anything to do with Anderson or Ogunleye. It's a situation where Ogunleye, 32, will probably test the market. He's known to like Smith, he likes the team and he's a captain. The Bears would probably have an opportunity to match an offer if they wanted. The guess right now is they might. Roach will be a restricted free agent. Anderson could return on a one-year tender if he plays well, and he'd actually earn more than Adams in 2010 with a tender.

2010: DT Anthony Adams, WR Devin Armoashodu, G Josh Beekman, TE Desmond Clark, WR Rashied Davis, CB Corey Graham, QB Caleb Hanie, RB Kevin Jones, C Olin Kreutz, LS Pat Mannelly, P Brad Maynard, S Kevin Payne, RB Garrett Wolfe

Comment: There has been talk about Beekman eventually becoming a center, and he and Kreutz come up at the same time. Maynard could be a guy the Bears consider keeping around. Punters are ageless and he's maintained a level of performance ever since arriving in 2001. Next year he will match Bob Thomas for years of service with the franchise.

2011: WR Earl Bennett, CB Zack Bowman, DE Alex Brown, TE Kellen Davis, RB Matt Forte, G Roberto Garza, DT Marcus Harrison, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, DL Israel Idonije, FB Jason McKie, TE Greg Olsen, OT Orlando Pace, OT Kevin Shaffer, S Craig Steltz

Comment: Really difficult to forecast how many of these guys will figure into the picture in 2012. Probably only a couple. Olsen figures to be in line for a new deal at some point, but that's down the road. Garza deserves a new contract simply because he's been one of the lowest-paid veteran starting guards in the league for a while now. He's been a consistent, durable performer.

2012: DE Gaines Adams, S Al Afalava, DL Jarron Gilbert, DT Tommie Harris, WR Juaquin Iglesias, WR Johnny Knox, G Lance Louis, DL Henry Melton, CB D.J. Moore, G Frank Omiyale, LB Brian Urlacher, CB Nathan Vasher, OT Chris Williams

Comment: The magic to the Adams' trade, if it works out, is the Bears got him for essentially the same length of time you can sign a second-round draft for--four seasons. We'll see where Harris is at by this point. He's going to need to play better the remainder of this season to ensure the $2.5 million roster bonus he has due next June. The Bears want to see elite performance because they believe that is what they paid for in his extension. If Urlacher makes it to 2012, the guess is he might have to do so after a pay cut. Just as he felt he outperformed his contract, the Bears could use the same argument against him in approaching him for a reduction. Yes, the pace Knox is on could call for a reworked deal following the 2010 season.

2013: LB Lance Briggs, QB Jay Cutler, K Robbie Gould, WR Devin Hester, CB Charles Tillman

Comment: Cutler could be signed for another five years after this. If the other four players figure into the picture in 2014, the Bears will have gotten top value out of their current contracts.

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I think the Bears have done a good job of locking up their young talent for the long term, which is evidenced by how many of our key vets are coming due at the same time. We are going to have to change over this roster at some point, at least 15 of the 22 starters by my count:

LT--Pace may not make it to next year
LG--Omiyale has been awful
C--Kreutz is up after next season, and may hang it up before then
RG--Garza has been adequate, but we could use some youth and talent at the position
RT--Williams has been ok, but likely a move to the left side is in his future
FB--McKie has been nothing special, and is likely to be ousted for a younger player before his deal is up in 2011
RB--If Forte continues to run upright, his career will not be very long.
LE--Ogunleye is up after this year, and we have Gilbert, Idonije, Melton, Adams, and Brown under contract
3 Tech DT--I can't see them paying a 2.5 mil bonus to Tommie Harris for this level of play. I see us taking the cap hit in an uncapped year and cutting him loose
NT--Anthony Adams has been steady, but Harrison offers more upside
RE--Alex has not turned into the sack guy we need. If Marinelli works his magic with Adams, he could supplant Alex, who would likely move to the left side.
MLB--Urlacher is not going to play forever. We need to start looking at a succession strategy
SLB--Tinoisamoa can't stay healthy, Hillenmeyer is a liability in coverage, and Roach/Williams are both going to be needed elsewhere
FS--Manning is up after this year. We had better draft at least one free safety this coming year
CB--Tillman is good for another 3-4 years, but there is virtually nothing on the other side of him. Vasher is gone, Bowman is inconsistent but athletic, and Graham apparently kicked Lovie's puppy or something, because he hasn't sniffed the field
LS--Patrick Mannelly can't play forever either, and it has been a luxury to have someone who is so effective at such a key position. We will notice when he's gone
P--Maynard is steady, and could play for a long time, but we may look for a less expensive alternative down the road

The only positions I think we are set at long term are:
QB: Cutler could be our QB for another 10 years
WR: Knox, Bennett, Hester, Iglesias is a solid core. At least 2 of them will develop into solid receivers
WLB: Briggs is playing great, and is locked up until 2013
SS: Afalava and Payne are solid. Manning might even be better as a strong safety than a free
TE: Olsen and Davis are going to be a good 1-2 punch for the future
CB: Tillman is rock solid, and is still getting his strength back from the back/shoulder trouble. He will get better as the season wears on.

As we have seen before, the trouble is in the trenches. We have a lot of expiring contracts, marginal players, and "solid, not spectacular" players that will make or break this team going forward. On offense, Williams and Beekman are our only building blocks (not couting Louis until he either gets through his legal trouble or actually plays a snap)
On defense, we have Adams, Gilbert, Melton, and Harrison as young players who are very early in their careers that we can try and build a rotation around. Add in Brown and Idonije and you have a pretty good foundation.
After that, all bets are off. Do we build through the draft or free agency? For the next 2 years, it will have to be free agency, and lucky breaks in the draft. We might be able to get a guard, a center, and a DT out of this draft in the later rounds, but until we start picking in the top rounds, we won't likely get a tackle that can play the left. Williams will have to be the guy.

It would be nice to see what the long term thinking is on some of these players. I know the front office and coaching staff won't tell us, but I would be interested to see how they view these players. Are they true building blocks, or are they space eaters until someone better comes along? I could go either way on a lot of these guys, especially given our schemes on both sides of the ball.

What about Lovie? Do you think if the Bears do not make the playoffs this year that he will get fired?

brad, clearly the current roster isn't as talented as the nfl upper echelon. that said, can we focus on positions/players the bears should look to target in '10 free agency? the crop of WR's in this class is stellar, but can you let us know about free agent offensive lineman, safeties, and cornerbacks.

as much as i'm grateful for the bears securing cutler, this team has had serious needs at WR, OL, and in the secondary since the super bowl, yet they haven't been properly addressed, which is very frustrating as a fan.

Joe if Williams has been average or mediocre at RT why would you move him to LT where he will face better pass rushers. LT is a move up not a move down. Run blocking has nothing to do with, the Bears run left just as much as they run right. Their is a reason the Bears did not put him at LT and went and got Pace.

Clady, Long, and Albert all started at LT their first year and all of them did a good job. Albert was a converted guard and still has done a vrey good job. Williams is suppose to be as good as these guys and he isn't, he is not even close. The 14th overall pick got the bears a mediocre RT. Wow what a move. Not to say a average RT can't play in this league and have a career, there are many of them in the league but he was suppose to be special. Or at least very good, from an elite Offensive line class. I will give him more time but with this coaching, I am not counting on much.

Good point Tripper. With the likes of Cowher, Shannahan, Holmgren, Gruden, and Billick waiting on an opening Lovie may well be on the way out if the Bears miss the post-season. Angelo is signed thru 2013.

The only thing I would concern myself over in the next few seasons is the O-line and DT position if I were Angelo. Of course he will have to extend some younger core players along the way but you win and lose games in the trenches.

The DT position is in need of a single impact player. This entire D-line group could become elite if we had a true mauler that disrupted O-lines consistantly. Obviously, Tommie Harris can't be that type of player anymore and I'm not sold on Gilbert taking that step next season. Harrison seems to be figuring his role out but he isn't a mauler and Adams is solid but not great.. Angelo needs to find someone to fill that void during this coming off-season or we will be plagued with mediocre play along the D-line year after year after year.

The O-line is a mess right now. Kruetz and Pace are playing like old men. Pace is at least showing signs of improvement since the season opener but how much better can a 33-yr old Veteran player get ??? Omiyale just isn't cutting it at LG and he should be moved to the back of the depth chart before we get Forte and or Cutler hurt. Garza has been solid for us but an extension for him ??? I would rather see a younger player take over when his contract expires.

The Bears need to start developing their own O-lineman. The problems associated with signing veteran's year after year is starting to show up on Sunday's. There are alot of questions surrounding the O-line that should not be asked right now. Angelo needs to get this O-line better and younger in a hurry.

Go Bears !!

Well this tells you one thing, they know how good Cutler is and they don't want him unhappy or even thinking about free agency. This also sets them up for an uncapped year. This actually a really good deal and this will still allow the Bears to go out and get some players to put around Cutler.

Joe you overvaule our recievers and Safety's. James Lofton said after the Atlanta game that Hester was not a reciever and that he could see him counting the steps in his rout while he was running it and that after three years he should not be doing that. I tend to agree with Lofton, he knows a lot about the position after all. Not to say Hester is not a great athlete, but he is not a natural reciever and Cutler is helping to make him better. Knox reminds me of Breaston or Royal, but I think both Royal and Breaston run better routs and are a little tougher. But that makes him a number 2 at best, I feel he is a very good number three. A very good number three can be a great weapon as Breaston has proved. The Bears tend to pay a lot of lip service to their players. But they know they need a big game reciever and they know they need line help.

Angelo could draft two Safety's next year and you would get the same result from them as you get from these guys. They are average players, not to say that is bad, but this team needs more Cutler and Briggs than it does more, Williams, Afalava, Payne and Adams.

When I look at this team, its east to pick the best players. Now at their current age, not what the yhave done in their careers.

The Blue's
Cutler and Briggs

The Very Good Players

The Good players
Alex Brown, Wale, Garza, Olsen, Clark

The Average Players, below average players, unproven rookies and bad players fill out the rest of the team.

This team basically has 3 core players, and every other position could be upgraded. You mention Davis, but he is not seeing the field much and I believe he was benched for his horrible blocking at one point. Don't let a couple of nice catches convince you of a guy.

You won't see Lovie leave after this season unless the Bears collapse, if they finish with 7 or more wins he will have another year. This team has a good shot to be a wildcard team.

Speaking of Lovie the bears will not be changing anything on the line. He thinks becuase Cutler has not been sacked a lot, that, that means the line has played well. Hits, Hurries, the pocket collapsing, no running game, the Qb constantly on the run, RB's getting hit in the backfield, none of that counts its all about sacks. Funny he says just the opposite when speaking of his defensive line. I wish he would make up his mind.

Hey its not a bad team, its a pretty good team, its just not a great team or Super Bowl team, but they have a shot at a wildcard. That would probably be against the Saints though.

Kruetz spoke about Omiyale today, saying the guy will be an All Pro and that he has only given up half a sack. Doesn't help the run game and you don't want to remind Olin that Cutler is one of the toughest QB's in the NFL to sack and that the biggest reason he is running left and run is because he can't step up, because the guards are not creating a pocket and the biggest reason he is being flushed is pressure up the middle. Edge sacks come from Ends getting the QB contained and in the pocket.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on October 21, 2009 5:30 AM.

Bears gives Cutler $20 million guaranteed in two-year extension was the previous entry in this blog.

Ochocinco stops joking long enough to praise Tillman is the next entry in this blog.

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