Four Downs: Marshall deal by '14 season?

Brandon Marshall has 100-catch seasons in each of his two years with the Bears. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty Images

Jay Cutler got his money. Will Brandon Marshall, his best buddy and favorite target, get a new deal before next season? Or will Marshall follow the same path as his quarterback and play out his contract in 2014?

Our panel weighs in on that and more:

First Down

Fact or Fiction: Brandon Marshall will receive a contract extension before the 2014 season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Cutler long-term deal makes it even more likely that Marshall will receive an extension sometime before his current contract expires after 2014. Marshall wanted an extension last offseason and failed to get it. I expect he will again be on the hunt for new money from the Bears. From a productivity standpoint, it’s hard to argue that Marshall doesn’t deserve it. Keep in mind, the Bears will have to pay Alshon Jeffery next offseason, but with Cutler in the mix for the foreseeable future, Marshall is probably in line for the next big deal.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. I don't see that being the top priority before training camp, given the needs of the defense, but the Bears should work to make sure there is no distraction next season, as the Bears' best wide receiver in, well, ever, goes into a contract year. As you might know, Marshall likes to talk. He likes to express himself. I could see Emery working on a deal during the season, despite his broken vow not to do so. Marshall is already the best receiver in the organization's history. He will likely get paid accordingly, even as he moves toward 30.

Second Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears are the winners in the Jay Cutler contract.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction: The Bears and cap czar Cliff Stein did the absolute best they could writing up this deal, withholding a signing bonus so in the future the organization can cut ties with Cutler without a salary-cap hit, or keep him from year to year at a reasonable rate that includes per active game roster bonuses. But Cutler will have $38 million guaranteed on March 14. Cutler has another $16 million in guarantees scheduled to kick in in March of 2015 and 2016. He has led the Bears to one playoff appearance in five years. Cutler wins.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. The Bears got their quarterback at a price they were comfortable with. If this weren't a team-friendly deal, it wouldn't have been done four days after the season was over. Yes, his cap number in 2014 looks big, but the Bears have space now to pay more money. They also are only locked in for three seasons and for a reasonable $54 million. With cap Stein at the controls, the Bears can also recalibrate his contract, spreading it out or bunching it up, if need be. Re-signing Cutler was always the right move and getting the deal done immediately now frees up the front office to focus on other needs, specifically on defense. Everyone wins in this deal.

Third Down

Fact or Fiction: Josh McCown has played his way to a bigger paycheck somewhere else.

Jeff Dickerson: Fiction. If McCown was only about the money, then yes, he played his way to a bigger paycheck somewhere else. But the veteran quarterback seems to be above chasing every last cent on the open market. Don't get me wrong, making money is important and McCown deserves to be compensated for his 13-touchdown, one-interception 2013 season. But McCown is in a perfect spot in Chicago. He's in the perfect offense (for his skills), with coaches he respects, behind a quarterback (Cutler) with has durability issues, in a town that adores him. Expect the Bears to present McCown with a strong offer with the intent of agreeing in principle to a deal before the beginning of the league year (March 11), the date when McCown can officially sign a new contract.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I think there's a strong chance McCown comes back with a competitive offer from the Bears. While McCown owes it to himself and his family to get as much money as he can on this deal, I assume he's smart enough to know the grass isn't always greener on the other side. This coaching staff, this offense and this team was perfectly suited to assist him in having a career season at 34. The type of team that would possibly want him as a short-term starter will likely be a mess. If he's offered a deal too good to refuse, he has to take it. But if the Bears can guarantee him more than, say, $2 million over the life of a short contract, I'll bet he stays here.

Fourth Down

Fact or Fiction: The Bears will have two new starting safeties next season.

Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Major Wright is an unrestricted free agent and Chris Conte's struggles in 2013 have been well documented. When the head coach (Marc Trestman) acknowledges (unsolicited) in the year-end news conference that neither safety played well, change at the position is on the horizon. However, the Bears could decide to bring Conte to training camp and let him compete for a roster spot. Conte, 24, is scheduled to count only $788,400 against the Bears' salary cap in 2014. That's a reasonable number for a player with so much starting experience, even if he is coming off a down year.

Jon Greenberg: Fact. Emery doesn't play. Just ask Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb. Heck, just ask Brian Urlacher. Emery isn't shy about making moves. I think Wright and Conte got a raw deal at times because of the myriad breakdowns in front of them, thanks to injuries and inexperience in the front seven. The previous season, when the defense was humming, they looked a lot better. Both could move on to have decent to strong NFL careers, but I think it's time to at least make a change in the starting lineup. I could see Conte hanging around as a backup, although he might want a fresh start somewhere else after the way the season ended. The Bears should draft a safety in the first three rounds and then go into the free-agent pool. There are very few keepers on the worst defense in Bears history, and these two aren't among them.