- Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears beat reporter
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There are two Chicago Bears quarterbacks under contract: Jay Cutler and Matt Blanchard. That will change at some point in the offseason when the Bears fill out the back end of the quarterback depth chart either via free agency or the draft.
The Bears could also decide to bring back one, or both of the veteran reserves they had at the end of last season in Jason Campbell and Josh McCown, both of whom are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
The Bears signed Campbell to a one-year deal last offseason worth a total of $3.5 million ($2 million signing bonus, $1.4 million base salary, $100,000 workout bonus) in order to better protect themselves in the event Cutler missed any time due to injury, which he did.
Campbell took over for a concussed Cutler at the beginning of the second half of the Bears' home loss to the Houston Texans, then got the call to start the following game in San Francisco. The 49ers game was a debacle, but it's difficult to blame it all on Campbell, considering his two offensive tackles spent much of the night on their backs. Campbell finished the season completing 32-of-51 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 72.8, not exactly the kind of numbers that will excite teams in need of a starting quarterback, although it is possible Campbell could find a better opportunity and more playing time elsewhere in free agency.
But the laid back and reserved Campbell certainly did not make any enemies during his one-year stint in Chicago, so if the Bears decide they can't upgrade the No. 2 spot, another season with Campbell isn't a horrible option.
McCown brings tremendous value to a roster because of his personality, experience and willingness to impart his wisdom onto others. There is no doubt in my mind that McCown will be an NFL coach one day when his playing career is officially over. But with any veteran back-up, the issue always comes back to money. It is much more expensive to pay the veteran minimum to a guy like McCown with 10 accrued NFL seasons than it is to carry a younger player on your roster, even if it would be more beneficial to the team to keep the older player. McCown can also still play if necessary, which he showed last season in the preseason finale versus the Cleveland Browns.
If the Bears choose to add another veteran quarterback, not named Campbell or McCown, here are some of the options expected to be available in free agency, in no particular order.
Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins' team MVP in 2011, Moore lost his starting job last year to rookie first-round pick Ryan Tannehill but had an excellent game in relief of Tannehill against the New York Jets in late October. With 25 career starts and a great attitude, Moore would be an ideal No. 2 quarterback, if he can't find a spot to compete for a starting job.
Chase Daniel, New Orleans Saints: New Bears offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer should have a good idea whether Daniel can help the Bears since the two were in New Orleans the past several seasons. Daniel has attempted only nine career regular season passes, so it's unclear if he's ready to take over if the No. 1 quarterback goes down.
Brady Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs: Quinn had a rough in Kansas City throwing two touchdowns and eight interceptions, but he does have experience and is still relatively young. He can probably make a good living holding a clipboard for the foreseeable future.
Tyler Thigpen, Buffalo Bills: Bears general manager Phil Emery spent one year (2009) in the Chiefs organization with Thigpen, who played well for Kansas City in 2008 in 11 starts. But Thigpen has started just one game in the last five years after bouncing around with Miami and Buffalo.
Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers: Anderson led the Browns to a 10-6 record in 2007, but he last started games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010. Maybe the best route for Anderson would be to follow ex-Panthers offensive coordinator and new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski back to Cleveland, although he has the exact qualities teams are looking for in a backup quarterback.
Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati Bengals: Gradkowski's career got off to a promising start in Tama Bay, but he could never stick as a starter during stops in Cleveland and Oakland before serving as one of Andy Dalton's backups the past two years in Cincinnati.
Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers: Although expensive as a 10-year NFL veteran, Leftwich is a nice option to have in a pinch. He struggled in his one start in the 2012 regular season against the Baltimore Ravens with three picks and one touchdown pass.
Jeff Dickerson previews potential free agent quarterback targets for the Bears.