ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported on Tuesday that the Bears are actively shopping Cutler.
Cutler’s current contract runs through 2020, but the guaranteed portion of the deal is over. The Bears will open up $13 million in additional salary-cap space if Cutler is traded or released in the offseason (the team will carry $2 million in dead money).
Cutler is, by far, the most statistically successful quarterback in franchise history. The 33-year old (34 in April) owns almost every Bears passing record, but he has been to the playoffs only one time.
Cutler’s problem is turnovers. He has tossed 109 interceptions in 102 regular-season games for the Bears, including a career-worst 26 picks in 2009 after the club paid a hefty price to acquire him from the Denver Broncos.
To be fair, Cutler cycled through six offensive coordinators in Chicago. And he quarterbacked the Bears to the 2010 NFC Championship Game — a contest he did not finish because of a knee injury.
Cutler posted a career-best 92.3 quarterback rating in 2015, but he played in only five games last season because of thumb and shoulder problems. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing arm in December and hasn’t played a full 16-game schedule since 2009.
Blaming Cutler for all the Bears’ woes is unfair, but he definitely did not live up to expectations. All told, the Cutler era cost the Bears two long-term extensions, two first-round picks, a third-round choice and quarterback Kyle Orton — who went 9-7 in 2008.
There should be some interest in Cutler if/when the Bears cut him loose. With the help of my NFL Nation colleagues, I came up with a list of four teams that might pursue Cutler to be their starter or backup in 2017.
New York Jets: Cutler has allies in New York in quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and running back Matt Forte. Now, Cutler’s relationship with Brandon Marshall was not good when Chicago traded Marshall to the Jets in 2015. Maybe it has improved. Maybe not. Maybe Marshall — whose contract is out of guaranteed money — isn’t even on the Jets next season. Who knows? But Cutler is better than any of the young quarterbacks currently on the Jets’ roster. Whether he’s much of an upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick is another story. But someone has to play quarterback for the Jets.
San Francisco 49ers: Cutler played with new 49ers general manager John Lynch in Denver. And 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan’s father, Mike, coached Cutler in Denver when Cutler made the only Pro Bowl appearance of his career (2008). It’s not as if the 49ers are loaded with better options. San Francisco may be content with a Matt Schaub/rookie combo at quarterback in 2017, but it would not be a huge surprise if it considered Cutler.
Buffalo Bills: Never underestimate Buffalo’s propensity to make strange moves. Going from Tyrod Taylor to Cutler is a lateral move. But Taylor clearly fell out of favor in Buffalo at the end of the Rex Ryan era. Because of the Bills’ underwhelming quarterback depth chart, Cutler to Buffalo cannot be entirely ruled out.
Miami Dolphins: Adam Gase did a masterful job with Cutler in 2015. But Gase also knows Cutler’s limitations. Gase probably wants a quarterback who can see the entire field and make snap decisions. Cutler is not that guy. I think Miami can be scary with the right quarterback. Gase is a great coach. In a pinch, Gase can probably do worse than Cutler as his No. 2 behind Ryan Tannehill, who’s recovering from an injured left knee. Still, just because Cutler played for Gase doesn’t mean Miami necessarily wants to sign him.