Mailbag: Cutler's future with Bears

Here is this week's edition of the mailbag:

1. JD, what is your best guess for what the Bears do with Jay Cutler? Franchise tag, long-term deal or let him walk? Thank you for the weekly mailbag posting. Happy Holidays. -- Marcus, Loves Park, Ill.

Dickerson: My best guess is that Cutler signs a new deal with the Bears in the offseason. My sense is the Bears have already decided that Cutler is their guy -- even though Monday he will miss his fifth game due to injury in 2013 -- and will look to finalize a contract with him in next couple of months. The new trend in the NFL is for free-agent players to sign shorter deals for as much guaranteed money as possible. So it wouldn't surprise me if the Bears and Cutler eventually ink a three-, or maybe four-year contract somewhere north of $16 million per season. The franchise tag is always a negotiating tool for a team to use if the negotiations fall apart, but in this case, I think the scenario of Cutler receiving a new multi-year contract is the most likely.


Dickerson: Alex, I can assure you Cade McNown did not start for the Bears at quarterback last Sunday in the Metrodome. Maybe your television reception is a little fuzzy living that far up north. Now if you're taking about Josh McCown, he struggled at times in the 23-20 loss to the Vikings. Let's just say it wasn't his best performance. But for all the people criticizing McCown for his lack of arm strength or the methodical manner in which he guides the offense down the field, let me ask you this question: how many NFL general managers would love to have a backup quarterback on their roster, who in six appearances is capable of completing 120 of 184 passes for 1,461 yards, nine touchdowns, one interception for a passer-rating of 103.6? Without the benefit of a scientific poll, I'd say most league executives would find McCown's contributions this year to be acceptable. Not to mention the fact that he almost brought the Bears back versus Washington and Detroit, and had the team up 20-10 versus the Vikings in the second half. This is not about McCown being the Bears' quarterback of the future. This is about acknowledging that an incredible job he's done so far in relief of Cutler. McCown is a backup quarterback. But he's a very good one, and the Bears are lucky to have him.

3. Do you have a sense either way if the Bears will re-sign Charles Tillman? -- Steve, Itasca, Ill.

Dickerson: Steve, I feel Tillman is the greatest defensive back in Bears history. It would be a shame not to see him finish his career in Chicago, or for him to leave the organization in a contract dispute a la Brian Urlacher. But there is no way of knowing what kind of market there will be for Tillman in free agency. Tillman, who turns 33 in February, will earn $8,001,575 in 2013. Will another team pay him that? If not, what is he willing to accept? I don't know the answers to these questions. Now, I do believe the Bears would definitely be inclined to re-sign Tillman at a certain price, but until offers are technically extended in free agency, we have no real way of knowing what Tillman's true worth is to the rest of the league. Also, I wouldn't rule out Lovie Smith having a role in where Tillman ends up in 2014. If Smith lands an NFL head coaching job this offseason, perhaps in Tampa Bay if that opens up, then maybe Tillman strongly considers reuniting with his former head coach.

4. Jeff, why hasn't Cornelius Washington been playing for the Bears with all the injuries on the defensive line? -- Nancy, Yorkville, Ill.

Dickerson: That's a great question, Nancy. I guess the obvious answer is the Bears must not believe Washington is in a position to help them regularly on game day. Washington has great size at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, but he's obviously still learning how to be a 4-3 defensive end at the NFL level. Washington is a sixth-round pick, so the Bears can afford to be patient. However, it would be nice to see Washington make gains in the offseason and begin to contribute in the defensive end rotation in 2014, especially if Julius Peppers is released or balks at taking a pay cut.

5. Where does the combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery rank all-time in Bears history in receiving yards. Thanks, Jeff. -- Shaun, Milwaukee, Wis.

Dickerson: Marshall and Jeffery are currently the top duo in the NFL with a combined 2,099 receiving yards, and before the year is over, they will move into first place on the Bears' all-time list. Through 12 games, Jeffery and Marshall are third in franchise history behind the combinations of Jeff Graham and Curtis Conway (1995, 2,338 yards) and Marcus Robinson and Bobby Engram (1999, 2,347 yards). I expect Marshall and Jeffery will have moved into sole possession of first place by the time the Bears travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Dec. 22.