Thursday, March 12, 2015
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
The NFL league year begins March 10. Teams will be scrambling to make moves and sign free agents before their competitors. However, the Chicago Bears' might have March 12th circled in red on their calendar as their most important date.
March 12th is when the Bears will have to guarantee $10 million of Jay Cutler's 2016 salary. Currently Cutler has a $15 million guaranteed salary for 2015 and only $6 million guaranteed for 2016. After March 12th the 2016 number goes to $16 million guaranteed. This would make it very difficult to trade Cutler this off season. The Bears should try to make every effort to try and move Cutler while they still can.
It might seem irrational to trade a proven QB when it is so hard to draft and develop a young QB but there are a few reasons to go through with a trade. If the Bears are able to move Cutler prior to March 12 they would free up $11 million of the salary he was due this year and the $16 million that will end up being due next season. Some might think it is impossible to free up that money. However, the way Cutler's contract was structured allows for this. Cutler's contract was guaranteed through almost entirely the base salary rather than via signing bonuses or other incentive bonuses. The only bonus that will be affected by the CBA acceleration clause is the remaining $4 million of his restructuring bonus. If he is traded this becomes due immediately but the $15 million base salary will be taken on by the trading partner. With this kind of money opening up the Bears can really build around a new QB. For some the thought of a rookie starting QB or a journeyman QB is a road to futility. I would ask those people what have the Bears done with Jay Cutler?
Under Cutler the Bears have only gone to the playoffs once and have amassed a mediocre record of 44-38. By no means does this make Cutler irreplaceable. If you take the analysis one step further you will see very underwhelming stats. In the six years Cutler has been with Chicago he has lead the league in interceptions twice and he has not surpassed a 90 QB rating in any season. He has also only ranked in the top ten, in either completion percentage or passing yards, once (completion %, 2014). The Cutler supporters will argue that he has had a different coordinator almost every year and he has done the best he could. For me this would be the final nail in the Cutler coffin not an argument point to keep Cutler in town. Cutler's leadership qualities and attitude has been a long running conversation in Chicago. There have been game after game where you would see Cutler berate a teammate or be sulking at the end of the bench, alone. With the recent developments of past coaches and staff members saying the Bears cannot win with Cutler it is enough for me to say the Bears need to move on from Cutler at all costs.
With the lack of talent in this year's QB draft class the Bears might want to have an eye toward the 2016 draft. If the Bears can convince a team like Tennessee, Houston, Cleveland, or St. Louis to trade a 2016 1st round pick for Cutler it would be ideal. The 2016 class has some potential with players like Connor Cook, Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, Braxton Miller and maybe Cardale Jones. Having two 1st round picks in the same year would definitely ease the blow if the Bears have to trade up to get a top QB. This is a little far fetched of an idea but I would make it a starting point to see if you catch a GM that doesn't value future picks as much as current year picks. However, if The Bears cannot secure this type of deal they should definitely not hold onto Cutler. If the market for Cutler is cold I would try for at least a 5th round pick in the current year's draft but not be opposed to just dumping him for whatever I can get to free up the money at the very least. At the end of the day the Bears have not won with Cutler so moving on without him would not be a devastating blow.