BOURBONNAIS, Ill. | Jay Cutler is aware quarterbacks are cashing in around the NFL. He also realizes he'll have to wait for his big payday.
Bears general manager Phil Emery all but ruled out extensions this season for players with expiring contracts, and Cutler insists he's OK with that.
The same goes for kicker Robbie Gould and cornerback Tim Jennings, who are part of a long list of Bears whose deals are up at the end of the year.
In more ways than one, the stakes are soaring. The Bears have a new coach in Marc Trestman to go with a GM in his second season, and a big chunk of the locker room could be gone if they miss the playoffs again.
"Yeah. I mean, new coaches, there's a lot of things happening," Cutler said Thursday. "There's a lot of change. It doesn't really matter what year you are in your contract I don't think, you've got to still go out and prove yourself. You've got to play each and every week. You've got to be consistent and you've got to sustain that the whole season. Nothing's really changed on that part."
One thing that could change, though, is his future as the franchise's quarterback. That appears to be up in the air at the moment.
A big season could lead to a big financial windfall from the Bears — or another team. If he struggles, Chicago could make a clean split.
Where it gets murky is if Cutler continues to produce the way he has since he arrived from Denver in 2009 and delivers another middle-of-the-road season. Then the Bears would have a decision to make: Do they throw big money at a talented quarterback who hasn't lived up to expectations or do they let him walk?
And they'll have to make it against a backdrop that includes some big deals for QBs.
Baltimore's Joe Flacco played through an expiring contract last season and led the Ravens to the championship, winning the Super Bowl MVP. His reward? A $120.1 million contract that was, at the time, the richest in NFL history. Matthew Stafford got a $53 million, three-year extension from Detroit. Atlanta's Matt Ryan just signed a five-year extension for $103.75 million, with $59 million guaranteed.
"There's some big contracts going around so I mean if you win and produce, you're going to get paid," Cutler said.
It's not just him, though.
Gould, Jennings, Charles Tillman, Devin Hester, Henry Melton, Major Wright, Corey Wootton and Roberto Garza are among the regulars with expiring deals.
Gould, the fourth-most accurate kicker in league history, seemed upset by the no-extensions edict when he told Chicago's WMVP-AM on Wednesday night, "If they wanted a guy, they're going to find a way to sign him if it meant that much to them. ... I'm not too worried about if they will re-sign me or not because I have all the leverage. If they don't want to re-sign me now, it's going to cost them double at the end of the year."
Gould, coming off a season-ending calf injury, insisted Thursday that he is not angry with Emery. He said his agent approached the Bears about two weeks ago about a possible extension but was told the team was not in position to negotiate because of limited cap space.
"I want to be a Bear the rest of my life," Gould said. "If they don't want to do that then when the timing is right, I am going to have to move on. It is just part of football. I am not going to be here forever. I get that. I understand that. I'd love to be here. I want to be a Bear. I can't reiterate that enough."
Jennings, coming off a Pro Bowl season, said the fact that his contract is up gives him a little extra motivation. He also said he wasn't disappointed by Emery's comment.
"Hopefully, everything plays out for itself with guys here and we make the Super Bowl run and they're going to have to start talking to a lot of guys — and hopefully keep the right guys in the right places for years to come," he said. "They've got their plan in place and we've got to see how it goes."
That seems to be the approach the Bears are taking at the moment. They'll wait and see and then decide who they'll try to bring back.
"We'll play it out, and however it's supposed to go, it's going to work out," Cutler said.