Days after Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall called quarterback Jay Cutler the franchise quarterback of the Bears, general manager Phil Emery followed suit on Friday when speaking with “The Waddle and Silvy” show on ESPN Radio.
“I’ve said it before: I’m convinced that Jay is a franchise quarterback,” Emery said. “The rest of that as far as where we are going in the future, we’ll work out that in the offseason. Certainly I’m pleased with Jay. I think he’s grown in certain areas. When he’s been healthy and been on the field this year, he’s been playing at his highest level ever during the course of his career. -Phil Emery, ESPN Chicago
Beyond praising Cutler for his improvement on the field, Emery praised the quarterback for his improvement off the field as well.
“I think he’s improved in the leadership area. I think his demeanor has improved. I think the time off made him appreciate the great coaches that we have. He’s told me that our coaches are on fire with their game-planning, execution and getting guys ready to play. The last three games that he played when healthy from start to finish, he’s been over 100.0 in passer-rating. So we see a lot of good things out of Jay.” -Emery, ESPN Chicago
At the beginning of the season, Emery did label Cutler as a franchise quarterback while indicating that the quarterback would need to prove that this season with the Bears. Despite the injuries this season. Cutler presumably has given a large enough sample size to Emery to confirm the general manager’s “franchise quarterback” perception. That is a perception that could turn into reality if Cutler is able to lead the Bears to the playoffs in the final two games of the regular season.
If Cutler is able to lead the Bears to the playoffs, that should provide for an easier contract negotiation between the quarterback and the team during the off-season.
After a chat that Emery had with fans on the Bears team website a few weeks ago, the second-year general manager seemed to indicate that team would not use the franchise tag on Cutler this upcoming season. However, on Friday, Emery did not rule out the franchise tag being an option.
“I didn’t say that I would rule it out,” Emery told ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy Show”. “I said it’s not the first thing we would think about in signing players that we like. If you put a franchise tag on a player, that’s a player that you like. We like Jay. If you like a player, you want to move forward in a multi-contract year basis, not a short term.” -Emery, ESPN Chicago
It would be foolish for Emery to rule out the franchise tag option for Cutler. That is why reports of Cutler walking at the end of the season for a team that is willing to outbid the Bears like the Tennessee Titans are baffling. The Bears still control Cutler. Regardless if a team was going to outbid the Bears, the Bears simply could put the franchise tag on Cutler.
The expectation here is that Emery and the Bears will attempt to reach a long-term agreement with Cutler in February. If the two sides can not reach an agreement before the start of free agency, then the Bears will tag Cutler. A tag that is expected to be worth $16.2 million. But the Bears won’t leave it that. Even after tagging Cutler–if that is indeed the scenario that plays out–the team will still try to work out an agreement before the July deadline. It is a strategy that got Bears running back Matt Forte a new 4-year contract in 2012 worth $30.4 million; and a strategy that will likely result in Cutler getting a long-term contract extension with the Bears.
After all, Emery admitted that beyond viewing Cutler as a franchise quarterback, the organization likes the 8-year veteran.