Earlier this week, Bears G.M. Phil Emery said that the franchise tag isn’t off the table for quarterback Jay Cutler.
On Friday, Emery said it again.
“I didn’t say that I would rule it out,” Emery told ESPN 1000, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. “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 previously has explained that the franchise tag is less desirable because it results in a significant salary cap charge in one year. While a long-term deal can be negotiated to entail a lower cap charge in the first year, the dollars will hit the cap, eventually.
Though not articulated (yet) by Emery, the bigger problem with using the franchise tag comes from the fact that the tag sets the floor for negotiations on a long-term deal. With the tag for quarterbacks expected to be in the range of $16 million for 2014 and a 20-percent raise required for the second application of the tag and a 44-percent increase applying to the third, Cutler would make more than $60 million over the next three years by taking it one year at a time.
Cutler would still bear the risk of injury by going one year at a time, which would give the Bears a decent argument for knocking the guaranteed money down from $60 million over three years. Still, the final numbers with the franchise tag serving as the starting point could be much more than Cutler’s actual market value.
But Cutler’s ultimate market value can’t be determined unless he hits the market, and if the Bears let him hit the market they risk that he’ll take less to go elsewhere, simply because the Bears failed to make a “fair” long-term offer using the franchise tag as the starting point.
All that said, the Bears seem to be committed to keeping Cutler.
“I’ve said it before, I’m convinced that Jay is a franchise quarterback,” Emery said Friday. “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 to finish, he’s been over 100.0 in passer-rating. So we see a lot of good things out of Jay.”
Jay’s going to want to see a lot of money out of the Bears in order to keep showing them good things as a member of the Bears and not, say, as the quarterback of the Vikings.