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Monday, January 20, 2014
Bears position outlook: Quarterbacks

By Michael C. Wright
ESPN.com

2014 free agents: Josh McCown and Jordan Palmer.

Cutler
The good: Jay Cutler responded favorably to the tutelage of new Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman, and displayed enough growth for the organization to reward him with a seven-year contract worth $126 million. With Cutler and backup Josh McCown at the helm, the offense set franchise records in net yardage (6,109), passing yards (4,281), completion percentage (64.4), passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating, in addition to scoring 445 points. McCown set the franchise record for passer rating (109.0), completion percentage (66.5), and finished with the lowest interception percentage (0.4) in club annals. Cutler’s completion of 63.1 ranked as second in franchise single-season history, and his passer rating of 89.2 ranked as a career high for the veteran quarterback.

The bad: Cutler missed five games and portions of two others, yet he still threw 12 interceptions, which averages out to a little more than one pick per game. That number is too high, and works out to an interception percentage of 3.4. In addition, injuries forced Cutler to miss more than 22 quarters of action in 2013, and he hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, which is somewhat concerning given the financial commitment the Bears just made to the quarterback.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Cutler ($22.5 million) and Jerrod Johnson ($420,000). Cutler’s number is sky-high and a big part of the reason the Bears were just $796,000 under the cap as of last Friday. The good news is a portion of Cutler’s base salary of $22.5 million can be converted into a signing bonus to provide some cap relief if the team needs it. But as it stands now, Cutler is the only quarterback on the roster with any real experience, and the club has expressed a desire to bring back McCown for 2014. But it’s unknown whether the Bears can pull off that deal, because McCown will have suitors in free agency, and he’ll have to weigh family life against what money might be available to him on the market in making a decision to continue playing. If the Bears can’t bring back McCown, Palmer would be an inexpensive option the club has some familiarity with.

Draft priority: Moderate to low. The Bears haven’t drafted a quarterback since 2011 (Nate Enderle) and haven’t taken one in the first three rounds since 2003 (Rex Grossman). Cutler will be 31 when the 2014 season starts, and although he just signed a seven-year deal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the team to find a young quarterback of the future to groom over the next few years.