General manager Phil Emery dropped a bombshell Thursday morning, announcing the team had signed Cutler to a seven-year contract extension that will take the quarterback through the 2020 season. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport adds that the contract is worth $126 million with $54 million guaranteed, per a source informed of the deal.
If the Bears and Cutler take the contract to its conclusion, he will be 37 years old the next time he's eligible for free agency.
It's a huge statement by the Bears, who reaffirmed their faith in Cutler despite just one playoff appearance in his first five seasons at Soldier Field. It also shows the team didn't overhype the play of Josh McCown, a journeyman who played at a high level when Cutler was injured earlier this season.
The news significantly alters the offseason landscape. With the quarterback situation settled, the Bears can focus their attention on fixing their woeful defense, which buried them for good in the crushing season-finale loss to the Green Bay Packers.
The signing also shifts the game plan for teams that privately had targeted Cutler had he become available. Cutler would've had no shortage of suitors to choose from, a reality the Bears were fully aware of.
The signing makes sense on both sides, but it still will prove to be polarizing. This is perhaps logical given that Cutler is among the most divisive players of his era.
The Bears believe they locked up a gifted passer in his prime, a quarterback fully capable of leading the franchise back to the Super Bowl if surrounded by the right supporting cast. Critics of Cutler believe the rest of the NFC North just received a belated Christmas gift for the ages.
Time will tell.