Nov 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace has quite a rebuilding project on his hands. In the next phase of our Chicago Bears Roster Review, we look at the players who are currently on the Bears roster. We’ll look back at their 2014 season and look ahead to how they might fit into the team’s plans in 2015.
After trading one of the best wide receivers in Bear history which resulted in my wife shedding some tears of sadness, will Ryan Pace throw Chicago another curve ball and get rid of arguably the best quarterback in Chicago history?
Jay Cutler, QB, Age 31
28 TDs, 18 INTs, 3812 yards and an 88.6 QB rating. Don’t let these stats fool you, it was a tough season for Jay. Not only did he regress as a leader and a passer, his ability to elude a pass rush severely regressed as well – and this was an area that he excelled at in the past. In so many words, 2014 was a bad year for Jay.
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Any time a historic team, desperate for a savior at quarterback, gives up 2 first round picks to obtain that “savior” – there are going to be sky high expectations that will be extremely difficult to ever fulfill. When you add a gigantic contract to that, it is almost going to be impossible to fulfill them. This has been Jay Cutler’s career in Chicago.
In his career, he has passed for almost 28,000 yards with 183 TDs and 130 INTs. He has a career record of 61-58 and his 85.2 QBR is 25th ALL TIME – in NFL history. Let us not forget that he led the Bears to a 10-5 record in 2010, 7-3 in 2011 and 10-5 record in 2012.
The truth is that Jay is a highly talented quarterback that has shown many flashes of greatness, but cannot seem to put it all together. In all fairness, there are not a lot of quarterbacks that can actually say that they have put it all together, as this is the most scrutinized position in sports. Dare I say, he has put up some really good numbers in Chicago as stated above, while taking them to an NFL Championship. However, he has not been able to live up to the expectations that he has been given which gives people the perception that he’s not a good quarterback.
All around the city of Chicago in barber shops, local pubs, card games, dinner meetings, etc. everyone is asking the same question: What should the Bears do with Jay Cutler? I was in Alabama recently for work and someone asked me this question. ALABAMA! Jay may be the most criticized and controversial person on this planet, behind the President. Ok, that’s a stretch, but this is a huge debate and not an envious position for GM Ryan Pace to be in. The answer is……well, there is no black and white answer to this and no matter what you do, there is huge risk involved. In simple terms, there are a few options:
Trade Him: The Bears won’t be able to get anything close to the two second-round picks the San Francisco 49ers received from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 for Alex Smith in a Cutler trade. However, he should be worth more than the sixth-round pick the Oakland Raiders sent the Houston Texans to acquire Matt Schaub last year. In addition, a team must have enough cap room to absorb a player’s cap number in order to make a trade. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Bears are shopping Cutler as we speak:
"“Teams certainly know that Jay Cutler is available,” stated Rapoport."
You never know – there are always teams willing to “overpay” for highly talented quarterbacks so if the right deal comes into play, this is what the Bears brass is looking to do. Remember when the Bears traded a 1st rounder for Rick Mirer in ’97? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). It is a very thin free-agent quarterback market as evidence of the Cleveland Browns spending a ridiculous amount of money for Josh McCown. And, let’s not forget about the Buffalo Bills giving up 2 picks for Matt Cassel for crying out loud! I will say one thing with great confidence, both of those teams would be thrilled to have Jay under center…..
Cut Him: Cutler’s salary cap charge in 2015 is $16.5 million. If the Bears cut him before March 12, his new salary cap charge will be $19.5 million, a loss of $3 million in cap room….for absolutely NOTHING. It is not easy to give one player 15% of a team’s payroll when there are 52 other spots to fill. It is near impossible to do it for a player that is not even on the team. I do not see how any sane person can justify this decision.
Keep Him: Before you jump off the ledge, let us not forget that there were experts picking him to win MVP last year, so is it really that bad if they keep him? Unless you have another option to play quarterback (and no, Jimmy Clausen is not an option) then suck it up and deal with it.
What would I do if I were Ryan Pace? Well, I was the same guy that wrote a piece last year in favor of the decision to reach a long term deal with Cutler, so I’m not going to pretend to have the answers. I will attempt to give my humble opinion and at least stay consistent with what I’ve been saying for a while – I think they should and will keep him. I don’t think that they’re going to get any suitors for a trade that makes the team better seeing that his value is rock bottom and his contract is the size of Texas. Not to mention, if you do trade him, who is the quarterback of the Chicago Bears? Let me throw some names out there and let me know what you think:
Jake Locker, Michael Vick, Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Austin Davis, Matt Flynn, Ryan Mallett….
If you think any of those guys are a better option than Jay, then you can throw your career aspirations as an NFL GM in the trash. What about drafting a quarterback? I think that this is an inevitable need whether Jay stays or leaves. However, a QB is the most highly coveted position in the sport and many teams are in need of a QB this season. With that being said, you do not want to be in a position of being desperate for a QB in the draft, especially this draft. After the 2 top rated quarterbacks in this year’s draft, there is a huge drop off in talent and it’s no secret that this is a thin QB draft class. First off, there’s no guarantee at all that the top 2 QBs (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota) will be good starters in the NFL. Secondly, it’s a stretch to say that they’ll be available when the Bears pick. Finally, plugging a rookie quarterback into a hostile situation like this in Chicago right away is setting up a young kid for failure. No matter how you slice it, you’re taking a huge risk.
Whatever they do, the decision must be made by March 12th because after that day, the Bears will owe Jay another $10 million for 2016. Cutler’s already guaranteed his 2015 salary but after March 12th, he will be locked in with his 2016 salary. Essentially, if Cutler isn’t traded in the next few days, he’s all but penciled in as the team’s quarterback for the next two years.
What would you do? I know everyone has an opinion on this so feel free to fire away! Stay classy, Chicago…and Bear Down.