The Chicago Bears have made a number of changes this offseason, but it looks like their starting quarterback won’t be one of them. Jay Cutler is expected to return as the team’s No.1 signal caller in 2015, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.
There had been rumors that Chicago would look to trade Cutler, but the report states that there is “absolutely zero truth” to the idea that the team is looking to deal the quarterback. The Bears recently re-signed Jimmy Clausen to a one-year contract, but he’s expected to be Cutler’s backup.
After winning five games during their worst season in a decade, the Bears have already made several key moves. Head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were fired, being replaced by John Fox and Ryan Pace. Chicago has also traded their top wide receiver, sending Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft pick.
Following a disappointing 2014 season, it looked like it was only a matter of time before Cutler would be gone. The 31-year-old was benched towards the end of the year, as he committed more turnovers than he has in five seasons. A report late in the year stated that the organization was experiencing “buyer’s remorse,” having given Cutler a seven-year contract worth $126 million a year ago. He’s set to make $15.5 million this season, and $10 million of his $16 million salary for 2016 will be guaranteed if Cutler is still on the roster on March 12.
While Chicago would have their reasons for cutting or trading Cutler, it might not make much sense for the Bears to get rid of him. Even though Cutler struggled in 2014, he’s much better than any of Chicago’s other options. Jake Locker and Michael Vick are among the best free agent quarterbacks, and none of them have performed well enough to replace Cutler. Locker and Vick combined to throw eight touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.
Other quarterbacks reportedly available via free agency or trade in the offseason, like Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Cassel, were not seen as satisfactory options.
Cutler made key mistakes and was a major part of the Bears' last-place finish, but he didn’t put up awful numbers in 2014. His 88.6 passer rating was the second-best of his career, falling just short of the mark he set in 2013. Cutler ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in completion percentage (65.3) and touchdowns (28), and he set single-season franchise records with four 300-yards passing games and 370 completions.
The 2015 NFL Draft will feature two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, but it’s not likely that either will be available at No.7 overall when Chicago makes their first pick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem prepared to draft Jameis Winston with the No.1 pick, and even if the Bears have a chance to take Marcus Mariota, there are a lot of questions surrounding how he’ll perform in the NFL.
Chicago is hoping that a new coaching staff can help the quarterback have an improved 2015 season. Trestman admitted he was unable to get the best out of Cutler, and new offensive coordinator Adam Gase has reportedly begun designing a playbook specifically for him.