By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — For the second straight season under general manager Phil Emery, the Bears arrived at Olivet Nazarene University for training camp with every current player under contract for the 2013 season.
But they also arrived with a large number of key players entering the final year of their current deals.
And that won’t change.
Emery said Wednesday that he does not anticipate offering extensions to any players — including quarterback Jay Cutler — until after the conclusion of the 2013 season.
“That will be part of the planning process for 2014,” the general manager said. “We are always open to dialogue with our players and with their agents, but I will tell you that where we’re at with our current salary cap, and the room that we have in our cap, and our efforts to put together a championship team in 2013, I do not anticipate that we will do any extensions of contracts during this season.”
The players entering the final year of their current contracts include: Jay Cutler, Henry Melton (franchise tag), Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, Roberto Garza, Corey Wootton and Major Wright.
So why the hard-nosed approach against mid-season extensions?
“I prefer the focus to be on the field in the present tense — to be fully dialed into this season and our efforts to win championship,” Emery said. “It also is a reflection on where we are with the cap. You have to have room — both cap and cash — to make those types of extensions and we’re just not in that position.”
The Bears currently have less than $1.7 million in cap space and Emery will wait to evaluate those players’ performances this season before he makes long-term commitments. Remember, he didn’t draft any of them.
“We’ve always been very competitive in our contracts,” Emery said. “Our current contracts reflect that. We’ve paid for production and contributions toward team success and we will continue to … I think they’ve seen since I’ve been here that we will reward players that are on the upside, still improving and still contributing, whether they’re young or old as Chicago Bears and we will reward them.”
So far Emery says he has not seen any disappointment from players who were hoping to get a deal done before this season.
“I see a group of guys who are very dialed in. No pushback,” he said.
One downside to waiting could be players creating more leverage with big seasons. And no one can earn more money with a big year than Cutler.
“If you’re saying an enormous amount of leverage, that means we had a great season,” Emery said. “And that’s a problem I look forward to.”
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.