The Chicago Bears signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract Thursday, ending speculation that they might make a change at quarterback after five seasons.
Cutler acknowledged that his Bears tenure has had its low points, but he clearly thrived under first-year coach Marc Trestman and now has some of the best complements on offense he's had since arriving in Chicago in 2009.
"It's not always been easy," Cutler said. "There's been some ups and downs. There's been some bad years there's been some good years. I think it makes me appreciate the moment I'm in even more, with the offensive weapons we have, with the type of leadership we have from the front office, with the type of coaching staff we have with the play calling and our [offensive] install. It makes me happy I'm here."
The Bears also said they had signed cornerback Tim Jennings and guard Matt Slauson to four-year deals. Like Cutler, both players were scheduled to become free agents.
General manager Phil Emery said the team and Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, completed contract discussions three days after the season ended Sunday with a 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a game that decided the NFC North title. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal for the 30-year-old Cutler is reportedly worth nearly $18 million US per year over the first three years and includes at least $50 million guaranteed.
"I think whenever you have two groups who want to work in the same direction and want the same thing to happen it can happen relatively pretty easily," Emery said.
Cutler produced his career-best passer rating of 89.2 in 2013, although he played in just 11 games due to ankle and groin injuries. He completed 224 of 355 passes for 2,621 yards and 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
Emery said he was sold on Cutler's return after seeing him in Trestman's offence early in the season.
"After the first three games I definitely knew it was going in the right direction in terms of him putting the team in position to win games at the end of the game," Emery said. "That says a lot about the player. I think that Jay's third-down passing and fourth-quarter quarterback rating are very high and have been high for a while. He was in the top 10 in both areas this year. I think it speaks of a guy that can be a guy, a player, that is a reason you win."
Cutler has had a rocky career in Chicago. He feuded with former offensive coordinators like Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice, but has climbed up the career records list for the franchise and guided the Bears to the NFC championship game in 2010.
Under Trestman, the eight-year pro seemed to gain a new lease on life with the team and fit into the offence well. It helped that he had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver and running back Matt Forte had a strong year.
"The mindset is right and the talent in the locker room is right so I'm happy to be joining the rest of the guys, the rest of the coaches, the rest of the organization in pursuit of a championship," Cutler said. Although Cutler would have become a free agent, the Bears did have the ability to retain him as a franchise player. Emery, however, had said he did not want to take that step.