Happenings at Halas: Bears re-sign 3, Emery shoulders lack of de

Happenings at Halas: Bears re-sign 3, Emery shoulders lack of depth

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Despite injuries and not making the playoffs, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler earned a franchise contract - seven years, each one expected to pay him upwards of $18 million.

"He had his best season as a pro from a statistical outlook," according to their stats guru GM Phil Emery. "I also feel he had his best season in terms of leadership, display of toughness. His ability to bounce back, handle pressure and win games. He's proven to be a player who can win games."

"We wanted to stay here. It was up to the Bears if they wanted me to test (free agency)," Cutler said.

The Bears didn't want to take that chance. And both Cutler, his agent Bus Cook and the Bears came to a quick agreement just four days into the offseason.

"When both sides come together and want the same thing, it can be done pretty quickly," Cutler said.

He threw for 2671 yards and 19 touchdowns in 11 games this season. But it's his connection with Marc Trestman and offensive continuity that has him most excited.

"It's huge. Ask any quarterback in the league, being in the offense numerous years, around the same group of guys, hearing the same play calls experiencing the same things. The group of guys we have, They're going to make it that much easier," Cutler said.

He's right. With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte they certainly do. Not to mention Martellus Bennett, Earl Bennett, and a fierce offensive line. A front five that started every game this season and has guaranteed four of them will be back after signing left guard Matt Slauson to a 4-year contract. That's big for Cutler who has been beat up more in the last five seasons than most quarterbacks do in their whole career. So that is definitely moving things in the right direction.

And the "marriage" between Cutler and Trestman is working.

"Since day one we've worked through the things we've had to work through. It's been a relatively easy marriage of sorts. And I'm happy to be married to him for seven more years," Cutler said.

The Bears moved quickly to sign defensive back Tim Jennings as well. Jennings agreed to a 4-year deal and Emery emphatically pointed out that he's earned it as well. Since joining the Bears in 2010, Jennings has had a team high 16 interceptions starting in all but four games in the last three seasons. He really began to shine this year when Peanut Tillman went down and Jennings was forced to defend every opponents top receiver.

"It was fairly easy (to reach an agreement). Chicago gave me an opportunity. I like what they are building around on defense - with offense and special teams, I wanted to be a part of that. If they wanted me here, it was a no brainer," Jennings said.

Jennings was quickly asked about those who will be around him next season. Emery made it clear he will focus his efforts in free agency and the draft towards that end. Making the defense look much different and younger next year.

"You can't just be a mid-30's veteran defense. You want to bring in young guys who can carry that legacy for a long period of time. It's never going to hurt to get younger on defense," Emery said.

As both Trestman and Emery evaluate their team the defense is getting a thorough look. Why it worked through the first three games, and why it fell apart during the last three.

Nothing is off the table when it comes to finding a way to improve and that includes the status of Defensive Coordinator Mel Tucker. Trestman will have the final say in his future with the team, but the head coach would not tip his hand one way or another and repeatedly asked us not to read anything into what he said about every aspect of the defense being picked a part.

"Our goal is to win championships. We didn't reach that goal. We're not happy being an 8-8 team," Emery said. The GM took responsibility for not having proper depth for the injuries that took place on his defense. For not having another tackle. For not having another safety to push Chris Conte and Major Wright.

"That's on me," Emery said.

That accountability is part of the reason Bears fans can buy into Emery's plan, Even though we won't know what that looks like until this group reports to camp in seven months.

The three signings on Thursday are huge. Cutler taking the biggest chunk of the salary pie is somewhat a cause of concern with 25 contracts expiring in the immediate future. But Emery insists there is enough space to improve the defense. Though it makes you wonder about the future of Tillman, and Henry Melton among others like center Roberto Garza, and backup QB Josh McCown. The Bears vocalized their desire to resign both but understand they've earned other options. So again, we shall see.

It was a 2-1/2 hour post-mortem on the 2013 season. Obviously an indication things didn't go the way they wanted. But if you're a Bears fan, you have to be excited about an offseason that will have no shortage of activity. Each day getting you closer to Bourbonnais.

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