As the beginning of the NFL's new league year inches closer, with teams able to officially make trades on March 9, the Chicago Bears have actively started seeking a trade partner for quarterback Jay Cutler, multiple league sources said.
Teams around the league are now aware of Cutler's availability while the Bears attempt to garner draft compensation for their eight-year starter, and conversations are expected to heat up during next week's NFL scouting combine.
It is not a surprise that Cutler's future in Chicago is in question -- but the start of official trade talks is a major step in that process.
While Cutler's contract does not include a no-trade clause, there remains a widespread belief that a deal will require both Cutler and the Bears to agree on the suitor. Cutler, 33, has little incentive to play for a noncompetitive team given the lack of any guaranteed money in his current contract, sources with NFL teams privy to the details said.
As a result, the Bears' decision to pursue a trade could leave them in a sticky situation with their quarterback: If they are unable to find a suitable partner willing to give up draft picks, it might lead them to simply release Cutler.
Whatever the case, it puts the Bears in an interesting position as they enter the offseason -- they become one of the teams clearly contemplating who will start at quarterback for them in 2017. Ultimately, the Bears have now proved willing to move on from Cutler without a replacement in place.