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Bears unlikely to sign players to new deals during season

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — As the Bears opened training camp Wednesday, general manager Phil Emery said that he doesn't expect to ink any players to contract extensions during the 2013 season.

"We are always open to dialogue with our players and with their agents," Emery said. "But where we're at with our current salary cap and the room that we have in our cap in 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. All those will occur in 2014 and not during the 2013 season."


Bears general manager Phil Emery speaks to the media Wednesday in Bourbonnais.

Bears players entering the final years of their contracts include James Anderson, Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Kelvin Hayden, Devin Hester, Patrick Mannelly, Henry Melton, Matt Slauson, Charles Tillman, J'Marcus Webb, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton and Major Wright.

The team likely won't sign any players to extensions this season due to Emery's philosophy as well as the Bears having little room under the salary cap.

"I prefer the focus to be on the field in the present tense, fully dialed in in this season and our efforts to win championships," Emery said. "But it also is a reflection of where we are with the cap. You have to have room to make those types of extensions and we're just not in that position."

Emery said that he doesn't feel a backlash from veteran players who want long-term extensions.

"No, I see a group of guys that are very dialed in," he said. "All the [veterans] are very focused on doing their best to contribute as an individual to our team's success, and I have not seen any of that pushback. I see guys very focused; full of energy working to attain our goals."

Emery isn't overly concerned about losing key free agents to other teams on the open market.

"We've always been very competitive in our contracts; our current contracts reflect that," Emery said. "We've paid for production and for contributions to our team's success and we will continue to. We like our players. We like our roster. That's why they're here. They know that.

"I think they enjoy the experience with the Bears. They very much appreciate being Chicago Bears and being part of this team and our efforts to win championships. I see a bunch of players that want to continue to be here and I think they've seen since I've been here that we will reward players that are on the upside and still improving and still are contributing."

Emery was asked whether he felt the players whose contracts expire following the season could benefit because they'll see how well they fit into first-year head coach's Marc Trestman's system.

"I don't necessarily think it's about the new system," Emery said. "I think it's about winning games and winning championships and if they put their best efforts forward and continue to improve as players, they'll be rewarded, so it's to their benefit.

"I'm sure if you polled them, the majority would want to remain with the Bears. This is a good place to play. It's the best town in the league. It's the best city in the league. It's the best fans in the league. So they'll be rewarded. It's a plan that we'll have to work through, but it's a plan we're focused in on executing in 2014, not now."

If a prominent free agent-to-be like Cutler has a career year, he probably could name his price. But that would be OK with Emery because it likely would mean the Bears had a memorable season.

"If you're saying [he would have] an enormous amount of leverage, we've had a great season and that's a problem I look forward to," Emery said with a smile.

While Cutler's performance no doubt will keep the quarterback's contract situation in the spotlight throughout the season, Emery will be evaluating every individual whose deal is expiring.

"It's not just about Jay," he said. "We have a number of players that are either in the last year of their deal or under one-year contracts, so it's the same for all of them. All of them moving forward in their NFL career have to show improvement and consistency.

"I like our players. I like those players that are under contract. I'm looking forward to them having a great season; to contributing to a winning team, to a championship team, and having discussions and executing that post season."

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