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Durkin: Jay Cutler Contract Update

By Dan Durkin-

(CBS) Today may seem just like any other Thursday, but it holds significance at Halas Hall and for the highest paid player on the Bears' payroll -- quarterback Jay Cutler. Today is the third day of the 2015 league year, so per the language of Cutler's contract, $10 million of his 2016 base salary is now fully guaranteed.

The structure of the seven-year, $126-million contract that Cutler signed last season was unique in that it originally didn't include any signing bonus. Recall if you will, Cutler converted $5 million of his 2014 base salary into a signing bonus to provide some cap relief prior to the team signing defensive end Jared Allen last spring. Prior to that conversion, all of Cutler's guaranteed money came in the form of roster bonuses, making three dates significant: the third day of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 league years.

Because Cutler was on the Bears' roster as of the third day of the 2014 league year, $38 million of his 2014 and 2015 base salaries became fully guaranteed. Today triggers the next $10 million for 2016; however, the Bears do have the ability to get out of the final $6 million.

If Cutler were to be cut before the third day of the 2016 league year, the Bears would avoid having to pay the final $6 million of his guarantees, but he would carry $13 million in dead money on the team's 2016 salary cap (his $10 million base salary plus the remaining $3 million of his signing bonus).

Judging from the tenor of Wednesday's press conference with general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox, Cutler very well may be in a "prove-it" season this fall.

Dan Durkin covers the Bears for and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.

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