In Jay Cutler, the Bears have the big-armed quarterback that head coach Marc Trestman covets in his pass-happy offense.
His friendship with All-Pro WR Brandon Marshall was a big reason the Bears acquired the much maligned receiver from MIami in the first place, and many attribute fellow WR Alshon Jeffrey's development to his work with Cutler.
On Monday night, Cutler went on ESPN 1000 during the weekly "Jay Cutler Show" and discussed at length about his contract situation entering the offseason. Cutler expressed his desire to stay in Chicago long-term and, when asked about the possibility of being slapped with the franchise tag, Cutler had the following to say:
"I'm not gonna take anything personally," Cutler said. "If they want to franchise me, I'm gonna feel good about the situation we're in."
Yet many Bears fans question whether the durability issues he has dealt with since joining Chicago, resulting in Cutler having missed 12 games and counting since the start of 2010.
So, what should Chicago do with Cutler? Let's examine each of the possibilities:
Re-sign Cutler long-term: This is often considered the most likely scenario for Cutler and the Bears, as it helps both parties accomplish what they mostly want. Cutler gets long-term financial security, while Chicago and GM Phil Emery are probably able to sign Cutler at a discount coming off of another injury-plagued season.
Another reason this benefits Chicago is that Cutler appears to have found a head coach and play caller he finally trusts in Trestman. That sort of consistency is something Cutler hasn't had since his time in Denver with Mike Shanahan and, while in Denver, Cutler only improved with more comfortability.
Cutler was on pace for his best statistical season with the Bears before the groin and ankle injuries sidelined him for a few games (Cutler said Monday he expects to return December 9 against the Dallas Cowboys). He appears very comfortable with the playbook and the offensive weapons surrounding him, so why would he want to leave?
If locking Cutler up long-term is the route Chicago wants to take, something less than Matthew Stafford's newly signed contract (5 years, $76.5 million with $41.5 million guaranteed) feels right. Stafford has been more productive and durable than Cutler, so what about 5 years and $65 million with $30-35 in guaranteed?
Give Cutler the franchise tag: The current franchise tag for quarterbacks would net Cutler roughly $16 million, which is a pretty nice payday for a 16-game schedule. Despite Cutler saying he wouldn't mind being slapped with the tag, few if any players who have been given it have been happy.
This could deter Cutler a little from taking any sort of a hometown discount the following offseason should things get that far, but this route would allow Cutler's agent Bus Cook to continue to negotiate a contract.
For Emery, it allows another season of evaluating Cutler while not making any sort of a long-term commitment to him. There is essentially no risk involved in doing this except for the possibility of Cutler outperforming his contract and requiring Emery to pony up even more to keep him following the 2014 season.
Let him leave via free agency: The Bears and Cutler appear pleased with one another, and with the franchise tag a possibility, this option appears highly unlikely.
But what if Emery decides Josh McCown has done enough in Cutler's absence to be able to handle the job at a discounted price? Maybe a dominant quarterback isn't as important now that Trestman is calling plays and has had success with someone not nearly as talented as Cutler.
The Bears could choose this route and allow Trestman to handpick a quarterback of the future in the first round of the draft.
Maybe being able to draft and develop a player such as Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, or Johnny Manziel (all expected to be high-round picks) is enticing to Trestman and the Bears coaching staff. This move would signal a full-go on a rebuilding plan, something the defense has already begun due to the rash of injuries it has experienced during the season.
It remains to be seen what the Bears front office decide to do with Cutler. There are numerous possibilities, all with very different outcomes.
Surely, the Bears have a difficult decision on their hands.
Billy Grayson is a Yahoo contributor from Chicago and diehard Chicago sports follower. He is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia.
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