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Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs ruled out for Monday night's Bears game vs Cowboys

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GM Phil Emery Discusses Cutler's Contract Situation- Bears general manager Phil Emery did a Q&A with fans on ChicagoBears.Com Tuesday (and I don't even want to know 99% of the questions he was asked).

One of the questions Emery was asked was about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's contract situation in the offseason, and specifically if the Bears would possibly slap the franchise tag on Cutler. Here's what Emery had to say:

"The franchise tag for the quarterback position has unique challenges because the average comes out to be such a big portion of your cap and your total money available to spend on other players to acquire to help your team. 

With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position, to use it and not sign the individual to a long-term deal hurts the team because you lose the ability to prorate the amount of guaranteed salary over the length of the contract. Proration lowers the salary cap number in relation to that player's contract. Obviously the lower the number in relation to the salary cap, the more players you can sign to help your team reach its goals."

So, that certainly sounds like a road Emery would not like to go down, but I wouldn't completely rule it out yet. The Bears may want to still see more out of Cutler before handing him a long-term deal, Cutler's contract demands may prove high but the Bears don't want to let him walk either, etc, etc. There's several things that could alter the Bears' plan here, but you can tell by Emery's comments that tagging Cutler is a scenario they'd rather avoid. (Larry Mayer; ChicagoBears.Com)

Emery Talks Tag, Offseason Challenge- Michael C. Wright reacts to the Emery Q&A, with some more detail on the situation Emery has to consider with Cutler and the franchise tag:

The franchise tag for quarterbacks in 2014 is projected to fall in the neighborhood of a little more than $16 million, which would be fully guaranteed with that entire amount hitting a team's books next season. So if the team decides Cutler is the team's franchise quarterback moving forward, it would rather work out a long-term deal with him than be forced to apply the tag. 

If the team tagged Cutler, it would be on the hook in 2014 for the projected $16-plus million as well as the cap charge of $18.183 million tied to the contract of Julius Peppers if the defensive end's deal isn't renegotiated. The Bears would have to fit in those deals with potential new contracts for defensive tackles Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins as well as cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson, defensive end Corey Wootton and safety Major Wright provided the club decides it wants to bring them back. 

Center Roberto Garza's deal expires at the end of this season, too, as do the contracts of left guard Matt Slauson, kicker Robbie Gould, return man Devin Hester and McCown.

As you can see, the Bears have a lot of upcoming free agents and using the franchise tag on Cutler would figure to complicate things even more in terms of being able to re-sign some of these other players. (Michael C. Wright; ESPN Chicago)

Peppers' Contract Isn't Up, But Bears Have To Make Key Decision- This topic goes in line with what we were just talking about. Julius Peppers is not set to be a free agent in 2014, but he's set to make a crapload of money, while the Bears have a crapload of key free agents, and a crapload of needs on defense (along with figuring out what to do about the quarterback position of course).

So, it's naturally been speculated that Peppers will be cut, or at least will have his contract restructured... again. Adam L. Jahns has more:

Cutting Peppers still would cost the Bears money — more than $8.3 million in dead money — but it also would free up ample salary-cap room. 

Let’s just say this: The Bears should thoroughly examine Peppers’ play over the last four weeks as much as the production of those players whose contracts are expiring. If he continues to perform like he did in Minnesota, it might serve the Bears best to keep him around for at least one more year. 

Of course, his deal can be renegotiated to give the Bears more flexibility — remember, it takes both sides to do that — like it was in September. His base salary dropped from $12.9 million to $9.9 million by converting $3 million into a signing bonus. 

But an interesting result from that renegotiation is that Peppers’ cap hits for 2014 and 2015 increased to $18,183,333 and $20,683,335. That’s a small fortune for an inconsistent, aging player and for a team that has other players to lock in.

Peppers is making the decision a difficult one with his up and down play over the season, and we see glimpses of his ability to take over a game, as was the case on Sunday when he had 2.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. But with a cap hit of $18 million+ in 2014? We need to see the kind of production he had Sunday on a more frequent basis. Of course, on a defense this bad, it will be tough for the Bears to give up on one of its few players that can make a game-changing impact. (Adam L. Jahns; Chicago Sun-Times)

Bears' Playoff Chances To Plummet To 15%- With two straight losses, the Bears are now barely hanging onto playoff hopes. (Charlie Roumeliotis; CSN Chicago)

Letter Of Introduction- We've long been friends with Brett Taylor, who runs the Cubs blog powerhouse Bleacher Nation, and guess what? Bleacher Nation now has Bears coverage. Jay Rigdon (@BearsBN; give him a follow) is in charge of their Bears coverage, and he really knows his stuff. Make sure to give the site a bookmark, and you'll see us linking much of their content on here as well. (Jay Rigdon; Bleacher Nation)

Refocused: Bears at Vikings- Pro Football Focus' reaction to the Bears-Vikings game. (Ben Stockwell; Pro Football Focus)

Under Marc Trestman, the Bears Offense Is Built For The Long Haul- With Bears fans in a fairly depressed mood right now, it's nice to be reminded that this offense looks damn good at least, and it should be damn good for a long time. (Zach Kruse; Bleacher Report)

Trestman's Decision-Making Must Improve After Another Loss- While Marc Trestman's done a tremendous job overall with the offense (and this is being underestimated by many fans), he's made some head-scratching decisions on that side of the ball in recent weeks. And the most recent notable decision proved costly, as Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed a game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt in overtime... on second down.

James Neveau with a great read on how Trestman's decision-making must improve going forward. And for what it's worth, I do think Trestman will improve in that department; he's no dummy and it's his first year as an NFL head coach. (James Neveau; Grizzly Detail)

Marc Trestman's Honeymoon Phase Over With Chicago Bears Fans- Matt Eurich also writes about Trestman's decision-making in detail. Must-read stuff here. (Matt Eurich; Chicago Bears Huddle)

Do You Want A Strictly By The Book Head Coach?- (Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.; Windy City Gridiron)

Inside Alshon Jeffery's Emergence As Game-Breaking NFL WR- Cian Fahey with a tremendous breakdown of Alshon Jeffery. We have ourselves one hell of a receiver, folks. Two of them, even.  (Cian Fahey; Bleacher Report)

Bears Coming Up Short In Key Area- This title could be taken a number of ways... but it's in reference to the Bears' struggles in short yardage situation. It's been brutal and must change for the Bears to win games down the stretch. (Bob LeGere; Daily Herald)

Bears Concentrating Only On What They Can Control- (Larry Mayer; ChicagoBears.Com)

Bears Sign Defensive Tackle Tracey Robertson To Practice Squad- (670 The Score)

Know Your Opponent: Dallas Cowboys- Dan Durkin with a great breakdown of the Bears' week 14 opponent. (Dan Durkin; 670 The Score)

Pleased To Meet You, Dallas Cowboys- More on the Cowboys. (Steven Schweickert; Windy City Gridiron)

Chicago Bears Week 14 Early Look: Dallas Cowboys- And... even more on the Cowboys. (Cameron Curtis; Bear Goggles On)

Durkin's Playbook: Dez Bryant's Scouting Report- Dan Durkin with a fantastic look at Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant. I sure wish the Bears had Peanut Tillman around to cover this guy. (Dan Durkin; 670 The Score)

Sean Lee To Return For Cowboys- Bad news for the Bears in that Cowboys star linebacker Sean Lee looks good to go for Monday night's game. (Calvin Watkins; ESPN Dallas)

The All-22: Teams Are Turning Primary Receivers Into Slot Machines- The Bears are using Brandon Marshall a lot as a slot receiver this season, and other teams are doing the same more frequently with their top receivers. Doug Farrar examines this new trend and how it's working out. (Doug Farrar; Sports Illustrated)

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