Jay Cutler

After going 8-8 and missing the playoffs, the Chicago Bears left no doubts in their confidence in quarterback Jay Cutler… who signed a seven-year contract with the team on Thursday (Jan. 2).

ESPN.com says the deal includes at least $50 million in guaranteed money, though the terms were not disclosed.  Cutler was set to become an unrestricted free agent this off season, but the team’s faith in him prompting executives to lock him up before any team had a chance to.

“He’s a demonstrated winner with the Chicago Bears. He can be a key player in terms of being the reason you win,” said Bears general manager Phil Emery.

Emery  also pointed to Cutler’s “leadership” during a difficult 2013 campaign, in addition to his “improvement” and “display of toughness,” as reasons why he’s the right choice … long term. “Very excited to have Jay for the long term. Cutler battled through the tough times,” he said.

Cutler finished the season with a career-high passer rating of 89.2, while throwing for 2,621 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.