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Cutler signshuge contract

AP

The Chicago Bears signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract on Thursday, ending speculation they might make a change after five seasons of good and bad from their talented quarterback.

Cutler clearly thrived under first-year coach Marc Trestman and now has some of the best complements on offense he’s had since arriving in Chicago in 2009.

“It’s not always been easy,” Cutler said. “There’s been some bad years there’s been some good years. I think it makes me appreciate the moment I’m in even more, with the offensive weapons we have, with the type of leadership we have from the front office, with the type of coaching staff we have. It makes me happy I’m here.”

The Bears also signed cornerback Tim Jennings, who has led the team in interceptions in each of the past two seasons, and guard Matt Slauson to four-year deals. Like Cutler, both players were scheduled to become free agents.

General manager Phil Emery said the team and Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, completed contract discussions three days after the season ended on Sunday with a 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a game that decided the NFC North title. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal for the 30-year-old Cutler is reportedly worth nearly $18 million per year over the first three years and includes at least $50 million guaranteed.

Cutler played in just 11 games due to ankle and groin injuries. He completed 224 of 355 passes for 2,621 yards and 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

Emery said he was sold on Cutler’s return after seeing him in Trestman’s offense early in the season. Still, Emery said he wanted to see how Cutler responded to some adversity. He saw it when Cutler came back from a groin strain to face the Detroit Lions in a 21-19 loss and from an ankle sprain to beat the Cleveland Browns 38-31.

Cutler feuded with former offensive coordinators like Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice, but he has steadily climbed the franchise statistical charts and guided the Bears to the NFC Championship Game in 2010.

Under Trestman, he seemed to gain a new lease on life.

“The mind-set is right and the talent in the locker room is right, so I’m happy to be joining the rest of the guys, the rest of the coaches, the rest of the organization in pursuit of a championship,” Cutler said.

Cutler wouldn’t call money the key reason for staying out of free agency, citing familiarity with Trestman’s offense as a big factor. He has only been in the same offense for consecutive years a few times in his NFL career, which started in 2006.

Buccaneers hire Smith

Tampa Florida AP

The Buccaneers say Lovie Smith is the ideal man to coach Tampa Bay.

The team made it official Thursday, announcing the one-time Tony Dungy protege who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl seven years ago finalized a five-year contract that he had reportedly agreed to on Wednesday. He will be formally introduced at a news conference next Monday.

The 55-year-old Smith replaces Greg Schiano, who was fired Monday following a 4-12 finish. The Bucs also dismissed general manager Mark Dominik, and the search for his successor continues.

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer called it an “exciting day” for the organization.

“We knew from the start of our search that he was the ideal man to lead our team into a new era. . . . Lovie is an accomplished and very well-respected head coach who has enjoyed success at every level of his 30-year career,” Glazer said.

In hiring someone with a proven track record as a NFL head coach, ownership departed from the route taken for two other coaching changes over the past five years.

The Glazer family promoted Raheem Morris from defensive coordinator to replace Jon Gruden after the Bucs missed the playoffs in 2008. They opted for another candidate with no previous NFL head coaching experience when they lured Schiano from Rutgers, where he had turned a struggling college program into a winner.

Schiano was fired after going 11-21 in two seasons. The Bucs lost the first eight games of this season and played poorly in the four losses during the 4-4 stretch the team put together to close out the Schiano era.

Smith is a defensive-minded coach who could bring back a version of the Tampa 2 system that the Bucs popularized during a successful run under Dungy in the late 1990s and Gruden in the early 2000s, when Tampa Bay won its only Super Bowl title.

Smith was Dungy’s linebackers coach with the Bucs from 1996-2000.