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It was with a smile that Jay Cutler said congratulations to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers as they pulled down blockbuster contracts this summer, and the Bears quarterback was able to smile about his own deal on Wednesday.

Cutler signed a $30 million, two-year extension Tuesday night that gives him protection against the possibility of a lockout in 2011, something he said is on the minds of all players. The Bears, according to general manager Jerry Angelo, didn't plan on addressing a deal with Cutler during the season as he was signed through 2011 on his rookie contract when they traded for him with the Denver Broncos.

But agent Bus Cook approached the team and they quickly found some common ground that made sense for both parties.

"We felt given the uncertainty of the CBA, given the fact we had the cap room, this was a good time for us because what it does for us is it helps our planning going forward,'' Angelo said. "This will not impede us to not do anything we need to do in free agency moving forward. In fact, it's going to help us now because there's real clarity because Jay was always in the plans. It was just when we were going to do it and how much it was going to ... the cost. All that got resolved in a timely manner.

"We're very very happy with that. I know Jay is happy with that. He made it very clear he wanted to be a Bear. Money was never an issue when we made the trade with him."

Cutler had a $12 million roster bonus due in 2011, money that wasn't guaranteed. In the extension, he moved a lot of money forward in the deal--he'll pocket $16 million this season--and protected himself at a time when no one can predict the future between the owners and players.

"I think every player in the league is probably concerned with that because we don't know what is going to happen, is there going to be a lockout or what's going to happen?'' Cutler said. "You know, the (players association) is advising everyone to save money. So any money you can get before that point is going to be good for any player.''

That didn't take long.

Ex-Bears tight end Michael Gaines, who was let go on Saturday to make room for defensive end Gaines Adams following the trade, has found new work. Gaines signed with the Cleveland Browns this morning.

Gaines takes the roster spot that was created when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was moved to injured reserve.

Gaines can file for termination pay from the Bears in February. As a vested veteran who was on the roster for Week 1, his pay for the season is guaranteed. Gaines had a base salary of $650,000, and was paid for six weeks. That means the Bears could owe him $420,580 after the season if he files for the termination pay. Players can file for termination pay only once in their career. Because the Bears are on the hook for well more than half a season, it's expected Gaines will probably make that move.

Any time a veteran player suffers an injury that wipes out virtually an entire season, and he's on the wrong side of 30, it's worth examining the financial impact moving forward.

No one is suggesting Brian Urlacher, who is 31, is in danger because of his salary. But the middle linebacker received a unique one-year contract extension last summer. I say unique because it's rare for a player to have one year tacked on to his contract when still has four years remaining on his current contract. That's what happened though, and it was a tense few months as Urlacher dug in his heels and the organization wondered exactly what path it was headed down with the face of the franchise.

In the end, Urlacher received an $18 million, one-year extension through 2012 with $6 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. Let's take a look at his remaining base salaries:

Age 31 2009 $5.625 million
Age 32 2010 $6.825 million
Age 33 2011 $8.025 million
Age 34 2012 $7.5 million

That's $27.975 million, including the pay he will receive this season. In today's NFL, that's in line with what elite veterans receive. Original negotiations for Urlacher last spring offered him the signing bonus, the $7.5 million in base pay for 2012, and then $1 million in the form of a likely to be earned bonus each season from 2008 through 2011. Urlacher just had to play in 85 percent of the defensive snaps each season to trigger the bonus. Negotiations dragged on, Urlacher threatened to miss minicamp (he didn't) and training camp. It didn't come to that as the team acquiesced in mid-July and simply tacked an extra $1 million on each season without a play-time provision. Urlacher was all smiles, the club was relieved and life moved on.

We have covered it here before but it's worth going over again.

One of the reasons the Bears are in such a good position with the salary cap this season (and in prior years) is because they manage to do a pretty good job of limiting their dead cap space. That's cap space that is eaten up by players no longer on the roster. Make a slew of a bad decisions with draft picks, free agents or both and teams can pile up some dead cap space in a hurry. The trade of Kyle Orton to Denver gave the Bears $700,000 in dead cap space for 2009.

According to the most recent figures, the Bears are carrying $6,535,640 in dead cap space. That might sound like a lot but consider that it is just 4.8 percent of the total pie which is more than $135.9 million. That number will go up. The Bears have 80 players under contract right now and as they work toward a final 53-man roster, players will be released that add money to that but as best as we can tell there aren't any players in jeopardy of losing their job that would add a big number to that figure.

Players with the highest dead space on the roster:

We have gotten a look at how the Bears constructed the contracts for third-round picks Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias and interestingly the deals are put together in similar fashion to how teams usually write contracts for second-round picks.

Both Gilbert and Iglesias, who signed their four-year contracts last week, received signing bonuses and not-likely-to-be-earned incentives (NLTBE) that are guaranteed against the last year of the deal, 2012. What happened was the Bears were under allocated when it came to the rookie pool. When the league last raised the minimum salaries it did not adjust the rookie pool accordingly, making it difficult (impossible in some cases) to squeeze in all the picks while giving the annual bump in pay.

The Bears' rookie pool, essentially a salary cap within the salary cap, was $3,497,111. After signing seven of their nine draft picks there simply wasn't enough rookie pool left for Gilbert and Iglesias to both get proper signing bonuses. So instead of putting the squeeze on one player, the Bears found a way to make it as fair as possible. The NLTBE, in this instance, is earned by playing time and the higher the draft pick, the better chance he has of being on the field to trigger the one-time payment. In theory, any way.

Here is how it broke down:

Jarron Gilbert, $740,000 signing bonus, $146,500 NLTBE, total bonus money $886,500

Juaquin Iglesias, $500,000 signing bonus, $119,900 NLTBE, total bonus money $619,900

Both players have escalators in the final year of the deal and with the base salaries Gilbert's contract is worth $2,636,500 and Iglesias' totals $2,369,900.

The Bears passed up the rest of the league last Friday when they reached terms with seven of their nine draft picks. Contract negotiator Cliff Stein let it be known that his goal was to have all of the players under contract by mid-June and the Bears have about 10 days to make that happen.

Stein was the subject of a recent piece on ESPN.com by Len Pasquarelli right here. It outlined part of the philosophy in what the Bears do in keeping their rookie contracts uniform. Starting in 2003 with safety Todd Johnson, the Bears began signing all draft picks from the third round on down to four-year deals. At the time, they were permitted to sign second-round picks to five-year deals. Now, it's four-year deals for second-round picks on down. It's a good read and covers some of the ground we've hit on here.

After agent Frank Bauer's visit to Halas Hall earlier this week, defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert, the club's first third-round pick, is believed to be close to a deal. Bauer represents Gilbert as well as the power brokers on the coaching staff--Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, Bob Babich and Rod Marinelli. The Bears also have to sign wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the second pick from the third round.

All nine draft picks will receive four-year contracts with the following base salaries:

2009 $310,000
2010 $395,000
2011 $480,000
2012 $565,000

That makes for a base value of $1.75 million.

Pisa Tinoisamoa made it pretty clear when he talked about joining the Bears after practice on Wednesday at Halas Hall--he wanted to get to a winning organization after the St. Louis Rams cut him loose a month ago. The Rams won just five games over the last two seasons combined, and along with his familiarity with the coaching staff of the Bears, he saw it as an opportunity to join a team with realistic playoff aspirations.

"Just the chance to be on a winning team is worth it to me,'' Tinoisamoa said. "I've been fortunate to get paid in this league and that was good, but I still had to go home a loser. I'd give all the money back if I could win again.

"The opportunity to win again. I miss that so much. I want to get back to that. I feel like I've been putting in so much work for so long, I feel like I deserve a good chance to win and a good chance at the championship."

A week after the Bears completed a whirlwind of contracts at Halas Hall, we've been able to take a look at some of the numbers.

Here is the contract for defensive lineman Israel Idonije, who was going to be a free agent after this season. Idonije's base salary going into 2009 was already going to be $1.75 million. A look at the numbers:

The Bears and contract negotiator Cliff Stein are one player and one day ahead of themselves from last year.

The Bears announced the signing of five draft picks on May 30 a year ago and did one better in announcing the signing of six draft picks this morning--D.J. Moore, Johnny Knox, Marcus Freeman, Al Afalava, Lance Louis and Derek Kinder. That leaves the top three picks to go--defensive linemen Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias.

The six players all received four-year contracts. The base value of the annual salaries for each player is $1.75 million.

2009 $310,000
2010 $395,000
2011 $480,000
2012 $565,000

Israel Idonije's two-year extension that the Bears announced today is worth $7 million in new money.

Idonije was due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He was on the books to earn $1.75 million in 2009. Here is what we have of the breakdown to this point:

2009

$2 million in guaranteed bonuses
$1.75 million base salary

2010

$2.5 million base salary ($1 million guaranteed)

2011

$2.5 million base salary

So, $3 million of the $7 million is guaranteed. Check back soon for more information.

gilbert526.jpg

The Bears were not first out of the gates to sign a draft pick this year but that doesn't mean they do not have a chance to be the first one to the finish line.

A handful of teams have already signed picks from the 2009 draft to contracts after the Bears were the first to do so on at least a few occasions over the last five years. If history is a good indicator, contract negotiator Cliff Stein could finalize multiple deals this week and league sources indicate that Stein is in negotiations with several agents. Marc Lillibridge, who represents wide receiver Johnny Knox (fifth round), attended the OTA last Thursday.

The Bears announced the signing of five of their 12 draft picks last year on May 30. Sources say Stein's goal is to have this year's picks finalized by mid-June, which gives him about three weeks to reach his unofficial goal.

The Bears have a total of nine picks to sign this year and with no selection in the first or second rounds, it should be straight forward and simple. All nine draft picks are expected to receive four-year contracts, a policy the Bears first implemented in 2003 in a contract with safety Todd Johnson.

The minimum salaries for all players will be:

2009 $310,000


2010 $395,000

2011 $480,000

2012 $565,000

A week after the Bears added Michael Gaines as strong competition to make the 53-man roster we've been able to take a look at the numbers in his one-year contract.

Gaines figures to compete for a job as the third tight end or perhaps as a reserve tight end/fullback. If he stuck in that role as a hybrid fullback/tight end, the Bears might only keep three running backs leaving veteran Adrian Peterson and the younger Garrett Wolfe in a battle for the third spot. That, however, will be analysis for another day.

Gaines, who will be on display Wednesday at the first OTA of the offseason, will have to make the 53-man roster in order to have a shot at the bulk of the money in this contract that is worth a maximum of $1,162,600, not the $1.25 million we previously reported. Our apologies for the bad numbers. Let's break down the real numbers:

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