There is no doubt that Phil Emery is an intellectual guy. He is cerebral person and he hired a cerebral coach in Marc Trestman. The Bears' new regime can accurately be called a "brain trust."
Emery, in his public comments since he came on the job last year, has come across as intelligent. He's dived into long, sometimes drawn out, explanations about moves the team has or has not made. He has cited football sabermetrics and analytics as tools he uses when evaluating players and scouting.
The cerebral approach could be good for the team, as analytics of stats becomes more commonplace and offenses and defenses becoming more complicated, it could be advantageous to the Bears to have a GM/head coach who think about the game in new and different ways
That said, what Emery said about contract extensions is true and personally, I think it's good. Here is the full quote (via ESPNChicago.com):
"We have a number of players that are under one-year contracts or their contracts will expire at the end of this season. That would be part of the planning process for 2014," Emery said as the Bears prepared to open training camp. "We are always open to dialogue with our players and with their agents, but I will tell you that with 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, with the players it will occur with, will happen in 2014 and not during the 2013 season."
Now, obviously, Robbie Gould had a problem with that statement, even saying that his agent was rebuffed by the Bears brass when they inquired about an extension. Gould questioned Emery's stance:
"If they were smart they would try to get their core group of players and re-sign them before the end of the year and try to make it work, but a lot of us are sitting in a great position. You might see a lot of guys exit the Bears (so) this year has to be pretty special because if it doesn’t go as well as planned I can see them completely rebuilding. Or they might find a couple guys they think is their core group and get rid of some of the other higher paid guys."
Now I'm not going to focus on Gould's comments here. His opinion is his opinion and that's fine. He already has clarified them and somewhat backtracked on what he said.
I am more interested in what Emery had to say. In fact, I think it's an incredibly smart policy on his part.
First of all, he didn't ban contract extensions or completely rule them out, he said "I do not anticipate" any getting done. With a reported $1.63 million in space, it's easy to see why he says that. It is going to be difficult to get a new deal under the 2013 cap and it's smarter to wait until everything comes off the books at the start of the 2014 league year.
Second, it should instill motivation into the players with expiring deals. I don't necessarily buy into the idea that it's a distraction to have to play on an expiring deal. There are plenty of examples of players playing their best in the last year of the deal and hitting the market at the right time. The team only gets one franchise tag to use, so players with expiring deals could very well get the opportunity to maximize their earnings and play the market.
Finally, if all goes wrong, Emery can blow this team up and thus buy him and Trestman another couple years.
With players Jay Cutler, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, Kelvin Hayden, Devin Hester, Patrick Mannelly, Major Wright, Corey Wootton and Henry Melton who have expiring deals, it will be easy for Emery to let veterans who he did not draft or sign walk in free agency. Emery and Trestman have nothing invested in these players. If they butt heads with Trestman or don't fit his scheme or Mel Tucker's scheme the way it is hope there is nothing wrong with those players leaving.
If everything goes bad, and I mean really bad, like 6 or less wins, then he can easily clean house, let any or all of the above mentioned players walk plus veterans with a year or two left on their deals (Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Eric Weems for example) and really blow it all up.
If the team misses the playoffs again, a real, distinct possibility, then he can sign back the guys who fit in and played well and let the older and/or expensive guys go and bring in more of his own guys.
If the team makes a run at it, then great, he's going to have to get out the checkbook and write some big checks if he wants this team to compete year in and year out and continue to play well.
This is the best thing he can do. If the season falls flat Emery and Trestman can rebuild with "their guys." Guys Emery scouts and thinks better fit his vision of a roster. The fact is, even after two offseasons on the job, this roster still has Lovie Smith's and Jerry Angelo's fingerprints all over it.
The Bears ownership has a history of loyalty, for better or worse, they have been loyal to their people. If the Bears need to blow it up next spring that should automatically buy Emery and Trestman an extra 2-3 years because ownership will want to see how they can rebuild the franchise.
And if the team succeeds and makes the playoffs, then Phil an Marc will get 2-3 years more as it is, so for Emery it's a win-win not to do any deals.
Lastly, if he's as smart as he appears to be, he won't need 2-3 years to rebuild the team.