Should the Chicago Bears Let Go of Jay Cutler?

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by Wolfman, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    COMMENTARY | Chicago Bears fans are in an unfamiliar situation: their team has more good quarterbacks than it has open quarterback positions. For now, with Jay Cutler injured, things are decidedly controversy-free. When he returns, Cutler will rightfully return to his starting position and Josh McCown will temporarily fade back into obscurity.

    There is little doubt which player is better: it's Cutler. When he is healthy, he needs to be playing for the 2013 Bears. Those who argue otherwise are simply overreacting to McCown's recent play. At season's end, however, things get more complicated.
    The 34-year-old McCown has, so far, earned himself an offseason controversy. The Bears are in big trouble with the salary cap and Jay Cutler is due a substantial raise. At this point, Jay Cutler is the 16th highest paid quarterback in the NFL with his $10 million salary cap number.

    There are 17 quarterbacks under contract to earn more than $13 million in 2014 and given the recent market for quarterbacks that made Joe Flacco the highest paid player in history (at least for a while), Cutler is likely to command at least a top 10 salary: this sets the bar at around $16 million for his possible yearly salary on a long-term contract.

    Bear in mind that this does not even necessarily mean that he has to be considered a top 10 quarterback in talent or production, as the market for quarterbacks has gotten much more expensive in the recent past. Also, players like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson are still on their rookie contracts and not among those top salaries. For example, a team like the Houston Texans could pay Cutler $14 million and save money compared to what they would be paying Matt Schaub if he was kept on the squad. Needless to say, McCown would cost little more than the veteran's minimum, in his case around $1 million.

    This won't mean much to Bears fans without a little context. The team has $80 million committed to just 25 players for next season; the final roster will include 53 players and the salary cap will be around $125 million. Unfortunately, the Bears have a great deal of other prominent free agents: Henry Melton, Matt Slauson, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, James Anderson, Zack Bowman, Nate Collins, Roberto Garza, Kelvin Hayden, Devin Hester, D.J. Williams, Corey Wootton, Major Wright, and Robbie Gould are all starting players that are not under contract for next season.

    Just bringing back each of those players back at their current salary would be impossible because of the cap and the cost to fill out the rest of the roster. Cutler's 2013 salary would put that group well over the mark. Of course, some of those players will not return, others will earn more, others will earn less. Nonetheless, it illustrates the magnitude of the problem faced by the Bears. They need to make major improvements on defense and they will likely need to cut Julius Peppers (would save $10 million in cap room) and not bring back Henry Melton and Charles Tillman, at the least, to afford yet another high-priced player like Cutler.

    In the NFL, teams often get crafty to make room for their big contracts. General manager Phil Emery will know more than the public about the ins and outs of the salary cap rules, his current contracts, and his bargaining position with different players. It is within the realm of possibility that the team could keep Cutler without a complete transformation of the defense that involves a great deal of salary cutting to the defensive side of the ball. Given the information at hand, however, that seems unlikely.

    If fans wonder why the Bears might choose Josh McCown over Jay Cutler, this is why. They are under no illusion that McCown is a better football player. He's older, less talented, and with a far worse track record. Nonetheless, at 10% of the cost, Marc Trestman and Phil Emery might reach the conclusion that the team would be better off if they took a hit in the play at quarterback in order to make the aging, horrific defense more competitive.

    Doing so would constitute perhaps the biggest gamble in franchise history. Jay Cutler was costly to get and despite his failure to live up to very high expectations, he has been the best quarterback and only real starting-caliber quarterback since at least the Jim McMahon era. Many otherwise elite teams have seen their chances squandered in Chicago due to unfathomably poor quarterback play. Phil Emery, long before becoming general manager, worked in the front office in those woeful days.

    To let Cutler walk would, in my view, say relatively little about Josh McCown. It would instead be a vote of confidence for Marc Trestman, first and foremost. Keeping McCown as the presumptive starter for 2014 suggests an organizational belief that Trestman is the caliber of coach that can take a quarterback that would be marginal in any other setting and use playcalling and an elite supporting cast to turn him into a very productive player.

    The other aspect that would allow such a plan to make sense is the upcoming draft; it is believed to be extremely deep at the quarterback position. Phil Emery would also be staking his own job and reputation on his ability to draft a quarterback that could take the reins as soon as 2015 as McCown is apt to age or regress quickly. Pressure also falls on Trestman to prepare this young quarterback in this scenario.

    Finally, it would reflect a lack of confidence in the defense. It has been among the league's worst this season in a variety of measures as it has dealt with a plethora of injuries. If Cutler is kept in the fold (and possibly even if not), next year's defense will probably be without Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, and possibly Tim Jennings. That means potentially four lost pro-bowl players with no apparent replacements waiting in the wings.

    Letting Cutler go would allow for substantial investment in that defense which has already made a Cutler-led offense look insufficient this season. Emery may judge that the defense simply cannot be improved enough to win in the near term if the team has a $15 million quarterback. Given the salary cap and the recently exploding salaries given to quarterbacks, nothing is more valuable than a cheap (and preferably young) quarterback.

    The decision is surprisingly complex and the Bears front office is certainly already beginning to stress about it. A great deal can change between now and the offseason, however. Another injury to Cutler, more heroics from McCown, a playoff run led by Cutler, or a myriad other possibilities exist to convolute or simplify the issue.

    Only one thing is for sure: Phil Emery and his staff are very happy that there at least five more games to be played before this decision has to be made. Right now, the correct choice is astonishingly unclear.

    Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer on the Yahoo Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and owns the film and TV blog The Renegade's Film Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc.
     
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  2. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    This shouldn't even be considered and is a total non-issue.
    Just more spew by a talking head I never even heard of just to stir things up. Typical Yahoo !
    C'mon ............ Really ?
    o_O
     
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  3. weneedmorelinemen

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    This writer is an imbecile. "Needless to say, McCown would cost little more than the veteran's minimum, in his case around $1 million."

    How do you know that, stupid yahoo sports writer? How do you know McCown would be the starter here for league minimum, or that he wants to be the starter at all for no extra money than he is making as a backup? How do you know that McCown's agent wouldn't just stick it to the Bears once we cut ties with Cutler? I guess if McCown asked for more the Bears would just dump him too. That leaves us with nothing at QB, but at least we can save that money for FA defensive linemen.

    Why the hell are all these media sports guys just now thinking McCown is someone to now make a make a starting QB is beyond me, and I really like the guy. I've liked him since 2011 and the last Vikings game that year. He's an exceptional team mate, plays hard, isn't rattled in the pocket, and very reliable in the short term. How can two starts, one of which was in a tornado, make a guy no one would touch into a legit competitor for the starting QB spot in the eyes of the media? Jesus, didn't they learn anything from the tales of Cassell and Flynn?

    The idea that Cutler's salary, where ever he goes, will be 14 million or more a year long term and McCown will automatically be only 1 million is just foolishness. We could bring them both back, add a QB in the draft, build on both of their experience with Trestman's system, and make QB a reliable quantity instead of crapshoot scratch off lottery ticket like it's been for the past 20 years.
     
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  4. Trackguy

    Trackguy Veteran

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    At least his rationale isn't that McCown is actually a better QB, just that the resources can be better deployed. If you want to read true imbecileness....go to any number of Chicago Bear fan pages on Facebook. And we wonder why opponents think our fan base is retarded. They pretty much validate it. lol.
     
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  5. Wolfman

    Wolfman Assistant Head Coach

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    Come on, it's not that foolish...by all rights and historical evidence, Cutler is going to end up somewhere with a contract over the $10 million dollar mark; it's just the nature of the QB market....and whereas not automatic, its equally unlikely anybody is going to throw big bucks at someone like McCown....forgetting the actual numbers, but there is little question that Cutter's BIG contract vs. McCown's small contract will be a reality next season...
     
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  6. mdbearz

    mdbearz Veteran

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    If Cutler signs for 14 million that would be good.
     
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  7. weneedmorelinemen

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    Ture, but I don't think we can use those resources better by weakening the QB position. If Cutler is worth 14+ million on the open market, then what are we doing hemming and hawwing over that number? If McCown is only worth 1 million on the open market, how can anyone consider him an upgrade by just letting Cutler walk and starting McCown next year?

    I don't see how starting McCown and adding a rookie QB makes up more competitive for 2014. We have a lot of cap room to allocate. It won't break the bank to bring back Cutler. I don't think he will hold up the team for 20 million a year like Flacco, because he doens't have success to stand on in a negotiation like that. By signing McCown in a backup capacity in a system he knows and is doing well in, he can't ask for too much. He might not want to go somewhere else for a little bit more money if we are going to take a shot next year. this is probably the most love McCown has ever received in his career as a successful backup QB for the Bears.
     
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  8. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas
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    In a word....

    No
     
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  9. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    i want jay back, but considering his playoff wins and any crucial game wins for us (rare or none) and 'home' discount he promised, i think he should be satisfied with 12-14 mil. that is enough and fair for his services, if he wants more, time to say goodbye
     
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  10. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Assistant Head Coach
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    I'd be fine bringing him back if we have a solid backup. He's fragile. This is his 4th straight year of not being able to play a complete season. It's not his fault that he can't stay on the field, but we do need to prepare for the games he can't play. He's on the far side of 30 now too, so he'll very likely be even more fragile, especially since he's VERY high mileage now (again, not his fault he had to play with a bad offensive line in Chicago).
     
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