Playoff wins for Jay Cutler to get paid?

At the moment, at least, we still have two NFC North quarterbacks in a crossroads position. After contract extensions for Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers) and Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions), the obvious next question is when -- or if -- Jay Cutler will receive one from the Chicago Bears.

ESPN.com columnist Ashley Fox suggests the Bears are justified in presumably asking Cutler to open training camp -- and perhaps play the season -- in the final year of his contract. (As we noted Tuesday, Cutler will earn $8.97 million this season and be eligible for free agency this winter.)

To leave no doubt, Fox writes, Cutler must do as much or more this season than he has done in his NFL career before the Bears commit to him. Fox: "To earn a new deal, Cutler must lead Chicago into the playoffs, and once there, he must win. It is as simple as that."

That's a tough charge to give an individual player in a team sport. After all, Cutler could have an excellent statistical season and the Bears could still miss the playoffs because of breakdowns elsewhere.

But as we discussed Tuesday relative to Stafford, elite franchise quarterbacks are expected to uplift the team around them. Should the Bears move forward with Cutler if they miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons with him? Fox: "[M]ost of all, Cutler must show he can win in January."