In the arms race for the NFC North title, one of the Green Bay Packers' rivals has just made a long-term commitment to their starting quarterback. The Chicago Bears announced on Thursday that they signed Jay Cutler to a long-term deal, ensuring that he will not enter free agency this off-season.
LM: GM Phil Emery announces #Bears have re-signed QB Jay Cutler, G Matt Slauson and CB Tim Jennings.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 2, 2014
Emery went on to say that Cutler was signed through the 2020 season, making his contract good for the next seven seasons. If he plays through the entire length of the deal, Cutler will be 37 years old in the final year of the contract. Of course, guaranteed money and the signing bonus will affect both the salary cap implications of the deal and how long Cutler will actually play under this deal.
According to ESPN, the deal is expected to have over $50 million in guaranteed money and will have a higher annual average than Matthew Stafford's contract ($17.6 million per year). Since signing bonuses can be prorated for a maximum of five years, it seems unlikely that Cutler will play the 2019 and 2020 seasons under the deal as it is currently structured.
Packers fans are likely pleased by this move, as Cutler has a career record of 1-9 against Green Bay (including playoffs). Cutler completed just over 55% of his passes in those games, throwing 11 touchdowns against 18 interceptions.
We'll know more about the structure of Cutler's deal in the coming days. For the time being, though, three of the four teams in the division have their starting QBs locked up through 2017 or beyond. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings will continue to search for a quarterback.
UPDATE: (12:52 PM CT) Brandon Marshall may have just leaked out the overall terms of Cutler's contract on Twitter, implying it is worth $126 million in total:
UPDATE: (Jan 7) Cutler's deal is actually structured in a very team-friendly way. According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert,there's no signing bonus and the first three years in the contract are guaranteed, covering $54 million in base salary. Cutler could be cut before the fourth year of the deal with no salary cap penalty, as his cap hit in the last four years is purely base salary and roster bonuses.