When Bears G.M. Phil Emery recently pointed to the “unique challenges” of using the salary cap on quarterback Jay Cutler, Emery didn’t elaborate on the root of the problem.
While Emery bemoaned the fact that the franchise tender, expected to be in the range of $16 million in 2014, can’t be spread over multiple years, he sidestepped the reality that the magnitude of the tag provides the starting point for a long-term deal.
If Cutler knows he can make $16 million for 2014, how much would he want on a three-year deal? Given that the tag for Cutler would increase, per the CBA, by 20 percent in 2015 ($19.2 million) and by 44 percent in 2016 ($27.6 million), Cutler would earn $62.8 million over three years under the franchise tag.
If at any point the Bears opt to not use the tag, Cutler would hit the open market.
That point could come even before the tag is applied once. If the Bears don’t view him as a guy who deserves an average of $16 million or more on a multi-year deal, the Bears may choose to let the market set his value. The problem with that approach is that Cutler may decide to take the same amount of money — or perhaps even less — to play for someone else.
With plenty of teams (including the Bears’ rivals in Minnesota) needing a proven quarterback, the Bears are faced with a problem that has no easy solution. For now, the goal could be to get Cutler’s agent to not use the franchise tag as the starting point for a long-term deal by convincing Cutler’s agent that the franchise tag won’t be applied.