The Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has a lot on his plate this off-season. 32 of the 89 players on the team are up for contracts at the end of this NFL season. The biggest headline of those players is inherently Jay Cutler. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of securing a quarterback going forward in Emery’s tenure that works within Trestmans system. The days of defense carrying teams to super bowls has passed, in today’s NFL its about putting up points. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees are the leagues premier passers, and one could argue after these quarterbacks there is a significant drop off in premiere talent.
So do the Bears need to keep Cutler if he is not on that premier list of names? The answer for the Bears is undoubtedly yes. Even after that significant drop-off in talent, Cutler will be the league’s best free agent quarterback in terms of driving the offense down field. The question is, are the Bears willing to shell out the money he will demand and if not what is the next option?
Emery has already spoken out about using the team’s franchise tag on Cutler in a recent open forum hosted by ChicagoBears.com. When asked about the tag Emery said “The franchise tag for the quarterback position has unique challenges because the average comes out to be such a big portion of your cap and your total money available to spend on other players to acquire to help your team.” With a defense that’s going to need a major overhaul, tagging Cutler will cause conflicts with signing free agents.
The best option then for the Bears is one of two. Release Cutler, draft his replacement, and keep McCown under contract for another year while Trestman develops the new talent as its proving to be a prosperous quarterback class. It’s not unreasonable to think McCown could lead the team as he has been stellar in relief of Cutler during his injuries (Groin and High Ankle Sprain). That is the most cost effective solution, however not what is best for the team going forward. Taking on a rookie comes with the risk of having an unproven talent leading a veteran offense that meshes well with McCown. Cutler is capable of elite play and he looked completely rejuvenated this year when he was healthy. It’s a shame he injured his groin as this situation to sign him appeared to be resolved prior to the injury.
Finally, we have option two. Keep Cutler and work out the long term deal and hope his progress under Trestman continues. Trestman has a history of getting older quarterbacks to play their best football towards the middle of their career. The offense is still a work in progress but has been impressive even with McCown, who is 34, under center. Thanks to Emerym the offense looks like it is going to be able to compete going forward. With an arsenal of receivers and a functioning line, Cutler was looking like the quarterback the Bears expected three years ago when he first arrived in Chicago. It’s impressive how fast Emery was able to turn the offense into a capable unit with a bright future. Cutler seems like he is capable of getting his team there, the question really is what Emery and Trestman feel after the season. McCown arguably made this a harder decision and makes a draft pick appealing. But with Cutler’s ascending play and arguably elite physical tools, think of what Trestman, Marshall, Cutler, and Forte can do with one more year together.