Well, it’s not often you get a big hunk of offseason news right in the heart of NFL playoff battles, especially from a team contending for a playoff spot (albeit, chances dwindling).
With one of the worst defenses in the NFL and an ailing Jay Cutler at quarterback, the Bears have struggled mightily this year. The fact that Cutler is a free agent after this year has led many to believe his future with the team is in jeopardy, and those fears were confirmed by GM Phil Emery, who basically said that the franchise tag price is too high for a QB, even Cutler.
“With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position,” Emery wrote during a fan Q&A on the team’s official website, “to use it and not sign the individual to a long-term deal hurts the team because you lose the ability to prorate the amount of guaranteed salary over the length of the contract.
“Proration lowers the salary cap number in relation to that player’s contract. Obviously the lower the number in relation to the salary cap, the more players you can sign to help your team reach its goals.”
Those are some strong words for Cutler, and we all remember what happened the last time a front office was not 100 percent all-in on him. I think Cutler has matured some since his Denver days, but not having a vote of confidence at this point from your general manager is pretty concerning if you are a huge Cutler fan.
So, if the Bears decide Cutler isn’t worth the franchise tag and they can’t work out a long-term deal (which they definitely could), there are some intriguing options out there for teams that need a quarterback.
If you’re a free agent QB like Cutler might be, you’d have a lot of options out there such as possibly Cleveland, Arizona, Jacksonville, maybe St. Louis, the Jets, or Minnesota, but two options really stand out to me:
The Houston Texans and the Tennessee Titans.
The Case For Houston
The Texans seem to be done with Matt Schaub, replacing him with Case Keenum. Houston has lost nine games in a row and is currently the favorite to pick first overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. They could have their pick of quarterbacks from that crop, or they could contend for Cutler’s services.
Gary Kubiak’s offense could be a perfect fit for Cutler’s skill set, being that it is so similar to the one that Cutler thrived in while he was in Denver. This move would also allow the Texans to focus their top pick on another position, perhaps a top defender like Jadeveon Clowney or Anthony Barr, or maybe they could trade down and get a bunch of extra picks.
Playing in Houston and the AFC South in general offers Cutler a chance to play in a comfortable environment with some of the best fans in the NFL. They also have a couple of good receivers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins.
The Case for Tennessee
The Titans are an interesting option because Cutler played his college ball at Vanderbilt, and he is a beloved figure there. This doesn’t matter football-wise, but Cutler was married in Nashville and obviously has an affliction for the area.
We also know that the Titans are willing to spend money. They brought in Peyton Manning a couple of years ago and tried to lure him in before he signed with the Denver Broncos.
Tennessee has some intriguing young talent at receiver with Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, and obviously Chris Johnson at the running back position.
I think the best spot for Cutler long-term is in Chicago, where they have built the offense around him and need only to rebuild the defense. The Bears have a lot of question marks coming on that side of the ball especially after the product we’ve seen on the field of late, so locking in Cutler long-term and rebuilding that side of the ball should be the area of emphasis this offseason.
If the Bears decide to let Cutler go, I really like his fit in either Houston or Tennessee, with Cleveland as a darkhorse.