Jay Cutler’s eight-year run with the Chicago Bears is over. The Bears finally severed that relationship by releasing the 33-year-old Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
To replace Cutler, the Bears are expected to sign former Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon to a deal averaging a reported $15 million per season.
Cutler leaves Chicago as the team’s all-time passing leader, but he’ll mostly be remembered for tenure there that’s best described as complicated.
Cutler signed a seven-year, $126.7 million contract with the Bears in 2013. The deal was structured such that it would’ve been impossible to cut him early without eating loads of dead money. This year was the first chance for the Bears to pull the plug, and they get a lot of money off the books — cutting Cutler saves $14 million against the cap, while costing only $2 million in dead money, via Over the Cap.
While Cutler wasn’t known for being a controversial player beforehand, it amplified in Chicago for mostly bizarre reasons.
The Bears only made the playoffs once with him under center, in the 2010 season. They made it to the NFC Championship against their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers, but Cutler missed most of the second half with a sprained MCL. Although it’s a high-stakes playoff game, that’s a perfectly understandable reason to sit out — QBs shouldn’t mess around on bad knees.
It would’ve been easy for the Bears to just say “knee injury, questionable to return.” But for some bizarre reason, they never disclosed the injury, so fans and TV viewers saw Cutler sitting on the sideline while his backup QB stunk it up in a playoff game, and they were up in arms. Hot takes came flying in a million miles an hour — Cutler is “not a gamer,” “not a real man,” “selfish,” “let his team down,” “doesn’t care about winning,” and so on.
His overall performance with the team was never enough to quite the drama surrounding him. It didn’t help that as he got into older he proved the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Cutler played just five games in 2016, but managed five interceptions to just four touchdowns in that span while the Bears went 1-4. Aside from a brief resurgence under offensive coordinator Adam Gase in 2015, Cutler’s been in slow decline for several years now.
What’s next for the Bears?
As for Glennon, while the reported cost to sign him sounds high, it’s actually a reasonable rate for a starting quarterback. Just going by annual averages, $15 million per year comes in at less than what other teams are paying starting quarterbacks with limited upside. The Chiefs are paying Alex Smith an average of $17 million per year, and Andy Dalton is getting $16 million per year from the Bengals.
Offensive line was already a need for the Bears for the offseason, the tackle positions specifically. It’ll be even more important to address that with Glennon starting. He lacks mobility, and has done his best work in a clean pocket where he has time to make his throws.
The decision to let Alshon Jeffery walk away in free agency is even more curious given the quarterback situation. They still have Kevin White, a first-round pick from 2015, who can be a No. 1 receiver, but he’s only managed to play four games in two years.
There’s no guarantee that the Bears view Glennon as anything more than a temporary solution. Chicago has the third overall pick in the draft, which could easily be used to take someone like Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson or any of the other top signal callers coming into the NFL this year.
What’s next for Cutler?
Despite the media circus, Cutler was a pretty good QB for most of his Bears tenure. But at 33 and unable to shake his bad habits, he’ll be a risky proposition for most teams looking for a short-term “win now” option at QB.
The Jets have been mentioned as one possibility, with his former QB coach there. But there’s already been pushback on that idea. They may not want to repeat their experience with Ryan Fitzpatrick with a more controversial version of him.
Buffalo is another possibility, based on prior connections at least. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was Cutler’s OC during the first three years of his career in Denver.
Really, any team looking for a temporary fix at the position could take a chance on Cutler, as long as they feel like they have an offense that can limit his turnover potential and keep the sideshows to a minimum.