The Bears' front office and coaching staff has a decision to make on QB Jay Cutler.
The Chicago Bears finished 23rd in the NFL in scoring in 2014 despite a large financial commitment to their starting quarterback. This kind of performance has turned the Bears’ investment in Jay Cutler into a questionable one, though they do have a few options.
Three of those options are to continue to pay Cutler an average of $18.3 million per season over the next five years, release him now and move on with another quarterback, or stick with Cutler for two years and move on after. Based on the financial savings involved and Cutler’s performance on the field, the Bears might be better off getting rid of him now.
The Bears’ options with Cutler result in vastly different total financial commitments (TFC).
Option A: Keep Cutler and pay him ($91.7M TFC)
Cutler will cost the Bears $91.7 million in salary-cap value through the 2020 season, an average of $18.3 million per year.
Over the past three years, Cutler has a Total QBR of 56. If Cutler were to continue this performance, he would produce 43 expected points added during each season. The Bears would be paying $2.1 million per expected point added by Cutler if his performance never drops off.
Option B: Release Cutler, pay premium for free agent ($37.5M TFC, $1.4M per point added)
Based on Total QBR, Brian Hoyer and Mark Sanchez are the two top quarterbacks on the free-agent market. The Bears would likely pay in the neighborhood of $6 million per season for one of these quarterbacks.
If a quarterback signed in free agency has a slightly below-average 45 Total QBR through a full season, he would produce 26 expected points added per season. This performance would be 17 expected points added fewer than Cutler, or about one point per game.
Option C: Keep Cutler for two years, cut him later ($25.5M TFC, plus future financial commitment to another quarterback)
If Cutler is on the Bears’ roster on March 12, $10 million of his 2016 salary becomes guaranteed. This would mean that Cutler is essentially playing on a two-year, $25.5 million guaranteed deal and could be cut afterward with no penalty.
Which option should the Bears choose? By letting Cutler go and signing Hoyer or Sanchez, the Bears would be expected to score one fewer point per game. They would free up $54.2 million to be used over the next five seasons, beginning this season, an average of $10.8 million per year.
If they chose option B, the Bears would be hurt in 2015 by cap commitments totaling $25.5 million to two quarterbacks (Cutler and the free agent they would sign). While this seems like a lot, the team would have an extra $10.8 million per year to spend on other players over the next five years.