Chris Wesseling at nfl.com comments on the rumor floated by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s camp that he may opt to retire in 2017:
“What is Jay Cutler’s football future if the Chicago Bears are unsuccessful in their quest to trade the veteran quarterback leading up to the new league year on March 9?
“If he is left without an attractive home once the offseason’s game of quarterback musical chairs comes to a close, it’s not inconceivable that Cutler will opt for early retirement.
“’He’s one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play, whether they want to not play, retire, walk away,’ NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport explained on Wednesday’s edition of NFL Total Access. ‘A lot of things in play here for Jay Cutler.’”
The thought among most NFL media people is that Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, is floating the rumor to kill Cutler’s trade value and to force the Bears to release him. If so, he may be making a serious mistake.
Cutler has slim hope of finding a new team in time to be under serious consideration as a starter unless he’s traded. Cook obviously believes that the Bears will be unwilling to carry Cutler’s cap number deep into the offseason. If so, he’s wrong.
The Bears are going to carry Cutler until they find another solution at the quarterback position. There’s no possible way they do otherwise, leaving themselves with no sure options at the position.
That could mean that the Bears trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or A.J. McCarron early in the offseason. That would be a win for Cutler and Cook. The Bears would undoubtedly release Cutler, freeing up his salary so that the new quarterback could be easily signed long-term. There would be little reason to carry the extra $13 million in cap space that Cutler would cost to keep around and he would, indeed, hit the market in a reasonable amount of time.
But there’s going to be a lot of competition for Garoppolo and most people believe that if the Browns really want him, they’ll get him. They have the most draft capital to spend in a trade. No one knows if the Bears (or anyone else) are interested enough in McCarron to make it worth the while for a contender like Cincinnati to trade away a good back up quarterback.
If the Bears miss out on Garoppolo, they may well opt to sign a cheap bridge quarterback like Brian Hoyer or a Mike Glennon. In that case, there would be no reason to release Cutler until they are absolutely sure that they won’t need him and/or won’t be able to trade him. That may mean waiting until after the NFL draft where they may or may not be able to find a future starter. It may mean waiting longer than that, well beyond the time when every team has made its plans at quarterback.
Publicly Cutler’s been a reasonably good soldier the last few years and the Bears could opt to do him “a solid” and release him early. But Cook is giving them little reason to want to do that by standing in the way of their efforts to maximize Cutler’s potential on the trade market. All in all, it’s a big gamble, one that may well not pay off for Cutler.