While two of the Green Bay Packers' rivals in the NFC North are trying to find new head coaches, the other spent Thursday locking up its starting quarterback — news that should be greeted warmly by Packers fans.
The Chicago Bears announced that they have signed Jay Cutler to a contract extension that will keep him with the team through 2020. Terms of the seven-year deal were not announced, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Cutler will earn more than $17.5 million per year.
"I'm very excited to have Jay for the long-term," Bears general manager Phil Emery said at a morning news conference. "He had his best season as a pro this past year from a statistical outlook. I also think he had his best season as a pro in terms of his leadership, his improvement, his display of toughness, his ability to bounce back, his ability to handle the pressure and his ability to come back and win games."
At the same time, Cutler continued to struggle against the Bears' chief NFC North rival — the Green Bay Packers.
After watching back-up Josh McCown lead Chicago past Green Bay in their Nov. 4 meeting, Cutler was back for the season-finale at Soldier Field. He was 15-for-24 for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 33-28 loss that cost the Bears the NFC North title.
That left Cutler with a 1-8 career record against the Packers. In those nine games, he is 157-for-281 passing for 1,928 yards with 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
"I see improvement in his ball-security," Emery said. "I see improvement in his distribution to his targets. But, most important, I see a transformation as a leader in his demeanor and working with his teammates and his coaches.
I think he has a special bond with our coaching staff. ... Jay is a team guy that we feel very comfortable moving forward (with)."
Here are some of the tweets poking fun at the Bears' announcement:
Bears sign Jay Cutler to 7 year deal.. BREAKING: Green Bay Packers clinch NFC North for next 7 seasons.— Faux John Madden (@FauxJohnMadden) January 2, 2014
"What a great move by the Bears to sign Jay Cutler for 7 more years!" - Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota— Rob Fee (@robfee) January 2, 2014
7 more years of rooting against Jay Cutler? 7 more years of rooting against Jay Cutler!— Dan Shafer (@danshaferMKE) January 2, 2014
BREAKING: Bears sign Jay Cutler for 7 years. No word yet on how much this contract cost the Packers.— Rich Ratay (@RichRatay) January 2, 2014
This Packers owner congratulates the Bears on signing Jay Cutler to a long-term deal.— Kevin Wondrash (@CHReporterKevin) January 2, 2014
Packers fans are chanting "7 more years!, 7 more years!" now that Jay Cutler has re-signed with the Bears through 2020.— Bill Novak (@BillNovakNews) January 2, 2014