Chicago Bears: NFC East

Based on initial numbers thrown out regarding the value of Colin Kaepernick's new contract, Jay Cutler's deal screams that perhaps the Chicago Bears overpaid.

Or did they? It's a difficult comparison to make, but we'll certainly try.

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ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports that Kaepernick's deal is for six years and worth more than $100 million, including $61 million guaranteed. Cutler signed a seven-year extension in January worth $126.7 million and $54 million guaranteed.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick is the third-highest-rated quarterback in the NFL since his first start in Week 11 of 2012 -- which was against the Bears in a 32-7 rout -- with a Total QBR of 69.6, behind only Peyton Manning (83.3) and Aaron Rodgers (71.3). During that span, Kaepernick is tied for fourth in the league in victories (17) and ranks in the top 7 in yards per pass attempt and yards per rush.

In the postseason, Kaepernick owns a record of 4-2, which includes two playoff comebacks capped by game-winning drives.

Meanwhile, Cutler is 1-1 in the playoffs, completing just 50 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 84.8.

So it would be easy -- but also perhaps shortsighted -- to say Kaepernick deserved the big money, while Cutler didn't. But you'd need to look at it a little deeper to get a sense for why the Bears upped the ante to extend Cutler.

First off, general managers do like to reward players for what they've accomplished. But when making big-money moves such as the deals struck with Cutler and Kaepernick, it's more about projecting what the player will do in the future, as opposed to what he's done in the past.

In Cutler's case, he's coming off a 2013 season playing with an almost entirely new offensive line, new head coach, and new scheme run by his fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons, yet he produced a career-best passer rating (89.2), while posting the highest completion percentage (63.1) since his second year in the NFL. So after four years of bad offensive lines, turnover with offensive coordinators and changes in offensive philosophy, not to mention a serious lack of offensive weapons, the Bears finally put together the conditions necessary for Cutler to thrive in his fifth season in Chicago.

Kaepernick already had them when he shredded Chicago in his first start, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns to go with a passer rating of 133.1 against a Bears defense that entered that game allowing 14.8 points per game while leading the NFL in takeaways (30).

Again, it's about projecting what the player will do moving forward moreso than rewarding him for what he did in the past. And if we're projecting, what's interesting is San Francisco unloaded the Brinks truck on a player who seemed to regress in 2013 after a strong campaign in 2012. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Kaepernick completed 60.5 percent of his passes in the pocket in 2013, after completing 65.7 of his throws from the pocket in 2012, his first year as a starter.

That's not to say Kaepernick isn't worth the big payday because from this vantage point, he is.

But so is Cutler, who seems poised to take yet another step forward under Marc Trestman, operating out of the same scheme with the same coordinator for consecutive years for just the second time during his tenure in Chicago.

Dallas' Tony Romo has participated in four postseason contests over his career and owns a 1-3 in the playoffs with a completion percentage of 59.26 and a passer rating of 80.8. Yet in the new contract signed back in March, Romo received $1 million more in guarantees than Cutler over six years as opposed to seven years.

But would you rather have Romo than Cutler?

Chicago didn't overpay. The Bears simply paid the going rate on team-friendly terms for a player that could ultimately turn out to be bargain if he continues to grow.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Backup quarterback Josh McCown wants to remain in Chicago, but a market that seems to be heating up for his services could change that.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht wants to add a veteran quarterback to compete with Mike Glennon, as does new Bucs coach Lovie Smith. Given Smith’s familiarity with McCown from their time together in Chicago, the veteran quarterback is a logical option to battle Glennon for the starting job.

“There’s a lot of positions on our team that I’m sure Lovie would agree that we want to anoint as the starter,” Licht said when asked if Glennon is the starting quarterback. “We want competition for Mike.”

There’s a good chance the Jets could also want competition for Geno Smith, based on a report from the New York Daily News.

McCown produced a 3-2 record last season filling in for Jay Cutler, generating a passer rating of 109 and throwing 13 touchdown passes and only one interception. McCown has expressed a desire on multiple occasions to remain with the Chicago Bears, as he was an integral part of the team's implementing a new offense under first-year Bears coach Marc Trestman.

But the Bears are expected to face competition for McCown, who at this point appears to be inclined to remain in Chicago unless he’s given an opportunity to start or handed significantly better financial terms in a contract than his current team can offer.

“I talk to Josh pretty much weekly, or biweekly. I’ve talked to him two or three times, anyway, and I’ve texted with him,” Trestman said Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “He’s in the loop into what’s going on. I’ve just called him on a personal level just to catch up with him and see how he sees the league and what’s going on. We just like to talk football. He knows exactly where he stands with us. I think that he’s going to take his time, see where things are at. When he’s ready to say, ‘I want to come back,’ I know [general manager] Phil [Emery] is going to do everything he can, and we’re going to do everything can to make sure he is.”

The Bears haven’t yet submitted an offer to McCown, and because he signed a one-year contract in 2013 under the minimum-salary benefit, the team can’t officially sign him until the start of free agency (March 11), although the sides could agree to a deal anytime before that date. So McCown could be exposed to the market (if the sides don’t agree to a new deal before the league new year), where he’s sure to have plenty of suitors.

“I’d like to see him come back,” Cutler said at the end of last season. “There’s talks about him getting other opportunities, which I think, rightfully so, he’ll have. We’ve had candid talks about what he wants to do. I’ll let Josh address that when he wants to. I know we’d love to have him back. We’d like to have him back in the building. Just the amount of work he does behind the scenes with the younger players and myself, just the experience he brings to the quarterback room, it’s very valuable. We’ll see how it works out. The guys in the locker room are hoping to see Number 12 back next year.”

QB Watch: Bears' Jay Cutler

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
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A weekly analysis of the Bears’ quarterback play.

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Rewind: Forget about the paltry 159-yard passing performance and focus on the impact of what Jay Cutler did against the Steelers on Sunday. Cutler completed 67 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 90.8, but he stayed within the confines of the system as opposed to improvising and taking chances. Then, when the Bears asked Cutler to step up, he did just that during the game-defining drive in which he scrambled for a 13-yard gain (while running over a Steelers defensive back in the process) before firing pinpoint throws on third downs to Brandon Marshall for a 41-yard gain and Earl Bennett for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Fast-forward: Detroit sacked Cutler seven times in two meetings last season, including five times the first time the teams clashed last October. Don’t count on those types of sack totals this time around, as the protection is greatly improved and Cutler is getting rid of the ball much more quickly than he did in the past. Cutler likely will be forced to play dink-and-dunk ball Sunday to advance down the field as opposed to striking the Lions for big chunks of yardage. But the new Cutler has proved disciplined enough to do just that.

Stay consistent: Cutler was responsible for three turnovers in Week 2: two interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. However, he eliminated such mistakes against a desperate Pittsburgh team in difficult circumstances on the road at Heinz Field. Now, Cutler must do that again at Ford Field. Cutler currently ranks No. 3 in the NFL in total QBR and needs to ride the momentum he has established by remaining consistent.

Prediction: Cutler’s passer rating will be in the 90s again, and he’ll finish with at least two TD passes.

Countdown Live: Packers-Bears

December, 16, 2012
12/16/12
9:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts for an NFC North throwdown between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. See you there.

Monday Night Live: Bears-Cowboys

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
5:19
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they bring you the Monday Night Football match up between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. See you there.

How you feeling? Cowboys-Bears

October, 1, 2012
10/01/12
3:43
PM ET

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to host the Chicago Bears tonight on "Monday Night Football" on ESPN, here's one reason for Cowboys fans to feel good and one reason for concern.

Feeling good: The Cowboys' defensive front, even if linebacker Anthony Spencer is unable to play, should be able to generate pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. And when that happens, Cutler gets upset and starts making mistakes and poor decisions. Given the Cowboys' strength on defense at linebacker and cornerback this year, that should offer the Cowboys a chance to make plays at the second level of the defense and flip the field, and possibly even score on defense.

Cause for concern: The Cowboys may have to win the game on defense, because it sets up very poorly for their struggling offense. The Bears excel at generating quarterback pressure with their four defensive linemen, which allows them to commit everyone else in coverage. And given the struggles the Cowboys have had so far on the offensive line, that's a recipe for big trouble in terms of Tony Romo's ability to give his receivers time to get open. The Cowboys' receivers also have struggled this year with the kind of press coverage they're likely to see from the Bears' defensive backs. This could be a very low-scoring game that favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

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