Make The Call
Deal right move -- at right price
The Bears' best approach in the offseason is to attempt to re-sign Jay Cutler to a multi-year deal.
Notice I said "attempt" to re-sign Cutler.
Cutler's future in Chicago could depend on how much money the quarterback is willing to accept to continue his career with the Bears.
Cutler is a top-20 quarterback. That designation carries with it a certain dollar amount.
But Cutler is not elite.
He has started two playoff games and made one Pro Bowl in eight NFL seasons. Even though Cutler made strides when healthy in 2013, he still failed to post a quarterback rating above 90.0 (89.2).
And turnovers continue to plague him.
In 11 games, Cutler threw 12 interceptions and lost three fumbles.
No, Cutler is not worth $20 million a year. He's not worth $18 million a season. In fact, it's difficult to imagine Cutler collecting the $16.2 million non-exclusive projected franchise tag amount for quarterbacks on an annual basis.
If Cutler insists on earning top dollar, well, his tenure in Chicago could be over.
With all the other holes on the roster, the Bears cannot afford to overpay Cutler in free agency. But if the veteran quarterback agrees to scale back his demands in exchange for (1) playing in a great market, (2) playing with talented guys on offense, (3) playing behind an improved offensive line, and (4) playing under a head coach (Marc Trestman) he clearly clicks with, then perhaps Cutler is willing to compromise when/if the Bears present him with an offer that is lower than he originally expected.
If Cutler is all about the money, there is a chance he played his final game in a Bears uniform in the 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Cutler is good, but he's not that good. I think the Bears realize that. Does Cutler?
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.
Draft the real franchise QB
ESPN Insider Mike Sandro said it best earlier this year: "Why spend $7M a year for a declining veteran when the draft can offer first-round talent for a fraction of the cost?"
Apply theory here.
They say a good quarterback is hard to find and a great one is impossible. In fact, you don't find them -- they usually fall into your lap. With Jay Cutler, the Bears felt five years ago that a great one had just happened to fall in their lap. That he was going to be the difference, that he was going to be the one who led them over the mountain top. Well ... he didn't.
The questions the Bears have to ask themselves are simple: Can you find another good quarterback? And has a "great" one already fallen into their laps but they don't even realize it?
No one is going to say that Josh McCown is a great QB. But we can all agree that he has played great in this moment. Great enough for the Bears to take a two-year contractual gamble on him and try to find a good-to-potentially-great QB in the draft over the next two years to take over when the McCown era comes to a close.
Another commitment to Cutler would be an expensive five-year project, unless they franchise tag him, which will prove nothing and the Bears will be back here with the same issues next year but with no McCown as backup when Cutler's annual injury happens during the regular season. Plus, by the looks of the five-year sample Jay just gave us, nothing is going to change. It is what it is gonna be with him.
A short-term commitment to McCown at this moment will be less expensive and leaves much more room for flexibility for the Bears to change direction in case McCown falls back into his pre-2013 season days.
Nick Foles and Colin Kaepernick are examples of what can happen when a team decides to change directions on their franchise QBs. And combining that with the early success of so many of the young QBs (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, even RGIII, etc.), it's safe to say letting Cutler go and taking a short-run chance on McCown while using the draft to actually find the real Cutler replacement has a chance to be the Bears' best -- and smartest -- option.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.