Incentives may offer win-win solution for Bears, McCown

Incentives may offer win-win solution for Bears, McCown
February 19, 2014, 2:30 pm
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Contract rules mean that the Bears won’t be able to re-sign No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown before the start of free agency. But addressing that situation may be the one most important deal on offense this offseason.

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Longtime friend and Hall of Fame NFL writer Dan Pompei cites getting something done with McCown as one of a handful of imperatives for the Bears. The question is how exactly to do that in ways that work for the quarterback and the team. Here’s the situation, however:

McCown wants to remain with the Bears. The Bears are set with a starting quarterback for the next several years with Jay Cutler, and money is committed, albeit with some flexibility. The Bears will be financially pressed to lavish major money on a backup as long as they have so many starting positions on defense to fill.

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The expectation is that McCown gives the Bears a most-favored-team discount. He could make more signing and competing for a starting job elsewhere, but that involves variables in coaching, teammates and organizations.

But McCown’s value is his ability to perform at the highest level in relief. The solution could then lie in arriving at a solid one- or even two-year pact, but with the upside in incentives that would pay McCown handsomely for starts and “team” incentives that reward him for the Bears making the playoffs, which is his ultimate value.

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The incentives key lies in “likely to be earned,” the designation applied to additional compensation that begins at a level above a player’s level from the year before. McCown played in eight games, started five. Incentives that begin with his sixth start do not count against the 2014 salary cap and only begin with that sixth start.

The net: McCown is nicely paid as a backup, very nicely paid if he’s needed as a starter, and very VERY nicely paid if he takes over and keeps the Bears on a playoff track.