The debate has raged for pretty much the entire 2013 season but hit a new level over the past few weeks. Would the Chicago Bears extend Jay Cutler when his contract expired or move on? Most agree he is staying, but if not, who could replace him?
Blake Bortles – UCF
Probably the fastest riser on most draft boards is UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. His numbers don’t tell the whole story. It’s hard to understand how people missed him for so long but he’s begun to show aspects of a man playing amongst boys. Size is not an issue with him at 6’3″ while he boasts a pro-ready arm that can make any throw at any level of the field. He’s also accurate, especially late in games. That is the key aspect that has coaches drooling. Besides being a good passer, Bortles is developing a reputation for late-game heroics. UCF has seen a few comebacks this season thanks to his right arm, which may explain why they’ve only lost once. If he finishes with a bowl win over Baylor, his stock will skyrocket further. Provided the Bears have a chance at him, they can’t afford to pass him up.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois
If any team has a leg up on the competition in regards to FCS prospect Jimmy Garoppolo, it would be the Bears. The quarterback grew up in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows and has enjoyed immense success at Eastern Illinois. He’s grown up right in their back yard, so it’s been much easier to keep tabs on his progress, which has become extensive. Garoppolo is easily the best small school quarterback in the 2014 class. He’s got adequate height, good arm strength, excellent accuracy and a quick release that makes it tough for defenders to get to him. Decision-making is also not a big issue, throwing 53 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. All the facets are in place for what Bears coach Marc Trestman likes in his quarterbacks: rhythmic, decisive, accurate and efficient.
Casey Pachall – TCU
One thing Emery prides himself on is doing extensive research on prospects with high upside. He has shown fear about looking past red flags if he thinks a player has matured and is ready to take him game to the next level. That is what happened with guard Kyle Long, who had a history of off-the-field problems and little experience in college. Yet the Bears took him anyway and he’s developing into a very good player. Casey Pachall was somewhat of an afterthought due to spending time in rehab for substance abuse. Then when he returned to TCU he broke his left arm. So the tape on him is not extensive, but the potential is hard to ignore. Pachall is 6’4″, 230 lbs; ideal size for the NFL. On top of that scouts report a very strong arm with a lightning quick release. In the right hands he can emphatically erase the ghosts of his past, on and off the field.
Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins
Nobody said the 2014 NFL draft was the only avenue the Chicago Bears front office had to explore for solutions to the Jay Cutler problem. A few opportunities may also present on the trade market as well. One name sure to catch their attention is Kirk Cousins. The second-year backup to RGIII was given the starting nod by the Washington Redskins to finish up the year and hopefully acquire some trade interest considering the team has no first round pick. Cousins plays in a system under Mike Shanahan that is similar in many ways to the one Trestman runs. He has good size and seems decisive and accurate with the football. Mobility also isn’t a big problem either. If the Bears would prefer somebody with experience over a rookie, the Cousins is an ideal solution.