Bears general manager Phil Emery intimated in a recent chat on the Bears’ official website that he would be reluctant to use the tag on Jay Cutler, but Emery clarified on Friday the organization has not ruled out applying the tag to Cutler, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, although the club’s preference is to negotiate long-term deals with key players, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago reports.
The projected non-exclusive 2014 franchise tag figure for quarterbacks is $16.2 million. Cutler is earning $8.970 million in the final year of his current deal.
“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 has used the franchise tag on running back Matt Forte and defensive tackle Henry Melton since 2012. In the case of Forte, the sides eventually settled on a four-year, $30.4 million contract, but the Bears were unable to reach an agreement with Melton, who counted $8,454.725 against the Bears’ 2014 salary cap despite going on injured reserve in September.
There has been much public debate concerning what course of action the Bears will take with Cutler. Although the Bears have kept their plans hidden from the public, Emery has gone to great lengths to endorse Cutler. While Cutler’s play and attitude can best be described as uneven since he arrived in Chicago via a trade with the Denver Broncos in 2009, under the guidance of first-year Bears head coach Marc Trestman, the starting quarterback has posted a passer-rating above 90.8 in six of his nine appearances.
“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.
“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.”
Cutler can help his case by beating the Green Bay Packers and winning the NFC North on Sunday. See the game live by getting your Bears tickets here.