Josh McCown still open to Bears

CHICAGO -- Bears free-agent quarterback Josh McCown said on Tuesday he can envision returning to the Bears in free agency even if another team offers the 11-year veteran a starting job when the new league year begins on March 11.

The Bears cannot officially re-sign McCown, who inked a one-year veteran minimum deal with the team last offseason, until the beginning of free agency, but the club does hold exclusive negotiating rights with the quarterback until that time.

McCown told ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show" that he was informed by the Bears at the end of the regular season that the organization wanted him to return in 2014 to backup starter Jay Cutler, who signed a lucrative seven-year extension in early January.

"I think from both sides, when I left and was exiting and doing all those things, I think it was mutual that both [parties] want to keep working together," McCown said. "I think we understand what we are coming from there. It's just the things that I have to weigh and think about. If an opportunity does come along to start, where is that team? What kind of team is that? It's hard to leave a team, especially as a quarterback, in an offensive structure that we have and are building with the pieces that we have. So it's not so cut and dry that this team will give you an opportunity to be a starter so let's go there. I think it's weighing what all is there and what that opportunity entails. It's going to have to look really good for me to go someplace else because my heart is in Chicago and that is where I want to be."

Bears general manager Phil Emery expressed a desire to bring McCown back for another season during his end-of-season news conference, but said he respected the quarterback's right to test the free-agent market after McCown had a career-year in 2013.

In relief of the oft-injured Cutler, McCown finished the season with 1,829 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception for a 109.0 passer rating, the third highest in the NFL.

"I'm definitely pleased with some of the things I was able to accomplish, just simply from the standpoint of not having played a full season or played consistently since the end of the 2011 season. You ask yourself if you can still run and do all the things that I want to do and run a team," McCown said. "As I look back on that, I'm pleased about that, no doubt. But still I have a bitter taste because we weren't able to get into the playoffs and get that done. As a quarterback and you look at the games I started -- we went 3-2 -- I wonder what I could have done differently in those losses to have helped my team. That's my focus.

"I think you approach the job that way you allow yourself the opportunity to improve. But again, my heart is heavy in Chicago for reasons, obviously, based on this past year -- not only for getting the opportunity to play but because of the guys in the locker room, the coaches and the organization. It's special to me. I've been a lot of places and gone through some of these things where you go in some place and compete to be a starter. So I'll take those situations as they come and evaluate them, if they do come. All of those things are still up in the air. We'll see some weeks from me, but right now as far as I'm concerned, I'm a Chicago Bear. My heart is there. Until something doesn't work out or it changes, that's where I hope to be."