What Will the Chicago Bears Do With Jay Cutler?

Nov 10, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) kneels on the field after being injured at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Cutler has often liked to say that it takes three years before players can master an offense and play it at the highest level.  While true for the most part, the fact is he doesn’t have that kind of time.  With the 2013 season passing by fast, what will the Chicago Bears do with him once it ends?

Marc Trestman effect shows positive signs but injuries are a problem

The decision would be an easy one if the Bears were losing and Cutler wasn’t playing well.  Unfortunately, in typical team fashion they are 5-4 coming off a game they could’ve won with Jay hurt.  It’s the kind of mind-numbingly consistent scenario that has dogged the entire era since his arrival in 2009.  At times he look great, at times he doesn’t and the rest of the time he’s hurt.  The hope was that new head coach Marc Trestman could bring some life to the offense, helping Cutler improve not just through better personnel around him but through better teaching.  Indeed every position from the wide receivers to the offensive line have substantially stepped up their game.  Cutler appeared to be doing that as well over the first half of the season.  He was on pace to crack 4,000 yards passing with 32 touchdowns and career highs in quarterback rating and completion percentage.  Then he hurt his groin in Washington, followed by a quick return that resulted in a high ankle sprain.  Trestman can only protect Jay so much with his play calling and protection up front.  At some point it has to become clear that for all his physical skill Cutler isn’t quick enough on his reads to protect himself from hits by the defense.  That is why he gets hurt and is often why he gives the ball away so much.  It’s gotten to a point where the Bears realize the payoff is not worth the potential

Depth of the 2014 NFL draft may prove key to the decision

So the question at hand is what can the Chicago Bears front office do next off-season.  The simplest solution is letting Cutler go as a free agent.  It saves them a boatload of money and allows Trestman to focus his entire effort on molding a rookie they are almost certain to take early in the 2014 NFL draft.  However, that strategy has a lot of risks because drafting rookies offer few guarantees, and there is also a chance Cutler lands somewhere close by such as Minnesota, who are also in the hunt for a quarterback.  The next option is to give him a long-term extension.  Jay has already said he’d gladly give a hometown discount and the added injury concerns could drop the price even further.  This would keep the position stable, but at the same time commit a lot of salary cap to a player who has one playoff appearance in his career.  Last but no least, there is the franchise tag.  It would cost the team a lot of money up front, somewhere between $12 to $15 million.  On the plus side though, it keeps Cutler on the team for another year, giving him a chance to continue improving under Trestman but with no long-term commitment.  It also would free the Bears from having to take a rookie quarterback early in the draft.  They could instead take advantage of its much-talked about depth and find a young arm on day two or three, freeing up the early rounds for reloading the defense.

In truth the Chicago Bears have hinted they will draft a quarterback in 2014.  What everybody wants to know is not whether it will happen, but whether it will be intended to replace Jay Cutler right away or down the road.

Topics: 2014 Nfl Draft, Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler, Marc Trestman

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  • jonny

    it’s a tough call.
    Aren’t the contracts structured so that if a player is injured he is paid less……….?
    guaranteed money vs incentives………..
    with injuries being such a likely occurence I would think most contracts are structured that way.

    • Erik Lambert

      That depends on how much leverage the player has. If he doesn’t get hurt often he can make it a stipulation that more money should be guaranteed. Incentive-based contracts are for players who have a history of ailments and must prove they can complete a full season to earn their money. Cutler is certainly in that kind of situation.

  • Celestino Shinn

    I agree, Jonny – tough call. We have so many needs and, with the state of the DLine, we could certainly use the focus of high-draft picks on the Dline. We could also use CB help and another Oline-man. Can we afford to let Cutler go and draft a QB in the higher rounds? To do so (IMO) certainly puts us in complete rebuildlng mode.

  • ManGod

    Slap Cutty with the franchise tag and give him another year in the system with all the same weapons and pick up a pro_bowl caliber center in FA or via trade (Wright and E Bennett) then draft the first 2 best D players and at 3rd take another shot at a rookie OT/OG…..then go for talent and depth with the best player available 4-7.

    • Erik Lambert

      If you want a center then their best shot is Alex Mack from Cleveland but I think he’s staying there. The only other notable name is Brian De La Puente from New Orleans. Wright and Bennett have little to no trade value. Wright is a FA next year and Bennett has done next to nothing lately, never mind his injury history. If I were the Bears I’d target some help in the secondary in free agency, maybe some help on the D-line and at least decrease the immediate need to draft solely in those areas. I pose it to you like this. What if, say, Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio fell to them in the first round? Scouts and experts have him being not just a good but a dominant tackle in the pros once his technique is refined. Wouldn’t you want the chance to take him by easing the need for defensive help with a few nifty free agent purchases? The point is the Bears want to use free agency to build their depth with cheap but effective purchases and maybe one big one if the opportunity is right. Then they can play the draft board with more flexibility.

  • ManGod

    And maybe allow Peppers to walk…and save the cap hit he brings over the next 2 seasons wihen it is clear that he is not playing at a high level and injuries are mounting for him also….try to keep Tilman for 1 more year to educate Frey!

    • Erik Lambert

      I am one of those people who absolutely believes the Bears should and will cut Peppers next year. It could save them over $10 million in cap space. That money will come in handy later on. I’d love to keep Tillman, but Frey is a slot cornerback. He doesn’t have the speed to matchup outside. I’d keep Peanut around for what I expect to be a high draft choice the Bears will bring in. That is the kid I want him mentoring.