McCown’s Contract Technicality: What Does it Mean?

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By: Luke Stanczyk

In the hours leading up to Sunday’s game in Cleveland, it seemed as if the Bears were at the center of the NFL universe. Jay Glazer was reporting live on FOX NFL Sunday that there was a locker room division over who should the starting quarterback, and the biggest story around the league over the past week continued to gain steam.

However, there was a different bit of news that broke Sunday morning that should have caught your eye even more. If you haven’t heard, CBS Sports’ NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that based on the language in McCown’s contract, it’s almost impossible for the Bears to bring him back next season.

Josh McCown is currently operating on what’s called a “minimum salary benefit” deal, which is worth $840,000. Per the NFL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can only offer players with that type of contract a one-year extension worth the same amount the next off-season.

Given how well McCown played in Cutler’s absence, it’s almost a certainty someone will offer him much more than the $840,000 the Bears are allowed to. So, unless McCown really, really, really loves Chicago, chances of him returning for 2014 are slim-to-none.

Josh McCown's outplayed what the Bears are able to pay him this off-season (photo credit: chicagobears.com).

Josh McCown’s outplayed what the Bears are able to pay him this off-season (photo credit: chicagobears.com).

At first glance, this makes the Bears seem cheap, as if they had given McCown just one more dollar, they would have given themselves the right to negotiate with him this off-season. However, CBS Chicago’s Adam Hoge points out that because of McCown’s deal, his number against the salary cap is only $555,000, and that extra dollar would have actually meant an extra $285,001 in salary cap space. Overall, the Bears have seven players on the roster with contracts like McCown’s, and because of that, the Bears were able to sign players in-season such as starting defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff. Plus, it’s not like teams commonly offer a guy $1 extra anyways in professional sports…

Anyhow, this news drastically effects what the Bears plan to do this off-season. Whether you are “Team Jay” or “Team Josh” (don’t worry, folks, I’m not a Twilight fan), it’s wise for the Bears to hang onto at least one of the two quarterbacks for 2014. This offense is on the verge of becoming one of the league’s best, and going into 2014 with an unknown at its most important position is something that’s a gigantic risk.

Cutler and McCown have built a great relationship this season (photo credit: Chicago Tribune).

Cutler and McCown have built a great relationship this season (photo credit: Chicago Tribune).

However, it appears as if Josh McCown will not be an option for that, which will lead me to believe that the Bears will retain Cutler, whether it be via the franchise tag or a contract extension. However, we’ve heard how the Bears want to retain Cutler only and their own price and how Phil Emery does not want to use the franchise tag on anybody. Those could be smokescreens more than anything, but regardless, it’s hard to tell what Phil Emery’s thought process is just yet because we haven’t seen him in this scenario before.

Personally, I think the Bears end up retaining Jay Cutler in some way, shape, or form for 2014. As I stated earlier, with the way this offense is clicking, it’d be extremely foolish to let BOTH Cutler and McCown go elsewhere. If Emery feels Cutler is the guy moving forward, they’ll try to hammer something out. If not, I think he uses the franchise tag despite the rumors that he doesn’t want to. While he may not like the franchise tag, I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t like losing more. If the Bears roll the dice on a rookie quarterback next season, who knows what the result will be.

Regardless, it looks like as soon as this season ends, Josh McCown’s run on the shores of Lake Michigan will be over, and he’s more than earned the right to negotiate for a larger contract elsewhere.

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