- The Bears announced that they’ve hired Zach Azzanni as wide receivers coach and Brandon Staley as outside linebackers of coach. Azzanni has spent his entire career to date in the college ranks, and coached pass-catchers at Tennessee for the past four seasons. He’s replacing Curtis Johnson, who left for the Saints after his contract expired. Staley, meanwhile, also comes from the NCAA, where he served as John Carroll University’s defensive coordinator for three of the past four years. Now in his first NFL job, Staley is taking over for Clint Hurtt, who rejected an extension from the Bears and defected to Seattle.
Although the Bears are trying to trade him, quarterback Jay Cutler is “one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play” in 2017, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).
Cutler is working out and rehabbing as he nears full health, and is expected to be able to pass a physical by next month, as Rapoport reported earlier today. The 33-year-old probably wouldn’t be going through that process — at least publicly — unless he was willing to continue his career in 2017, and it’s possible that Cutler is simply frustrated by his recent injury luck, poor play, and the rumors surrounding his status in Chicago.
Of course, by even mentioning the possibility of retirement, Cutler could be attempting to control his own landing spot. If the Bears reach a trade agreement with a club Cutler doesn’t want to play for, he could use the threat of retirement in order to force the acquiring team to back out a potential deal. That’s entirely speculation, but Cutler probably prefers to choose his next destination rather than having it assigned by the Bears, and talk of him hanging up his cleats could help him accomplish that goal.
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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is working to recover from shoulder surgery and is likely to be able to pass a physical by March, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Chicago is reportedly working to trade Cutler, and a clean bill of health could give interested clubs a bit more confidence in pursuing the veteran signal-caller.
Although the Bears are attempting to deal quarterback Cutler, they aren’t expecting much in return, as Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports Chicago would accept a 2019 seventh-round pick in exchange for its embattled signal-caller. That’s probably a bit of hyperbole on the part of La Canfora, but it’s evidence of just how difficult it will be for the Bears to find another team to accept Cutler and his current contract. An acquiring club would take on four years and more than $72MM by trading for Cutler, although none of that money is guaranteed.
Cutler, 33, spent most of the 2016 campaign sidelined by injuries, and wasn’t effective when he was on the field. In five starts, Cutler tossed four touchdowns against five interceptions, and posted a Total Quarterback Rating of just 33.1. He’s been loosely to linked to a couple of clubs this offseason, but no team has expressed any known solid interest.
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- Offensive lineman Eric Kush‘s new two-year deal with the Bears is worth $2.5MM and contains $500K in full guarantees, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Kush, 27, started four games and played 279 offensive snaps on an injury-filled Chicago front five last year, but he’s projected to serve as depth in 2017.
The Bears are “actively” looking to trade quarterback Jay Cutler, according to Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Cutler was informed of Chicago’s plan when it began in mid-January, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Chicago is expected to move on from Cutler this offseason, and while a release still looks like the expected outcome, a trade is certainly possible given the dearth of signal-callers around the league. Cutler, 33, is signed for four more seasons with cap charges between $16MM and $21.7MM each year. Nearly all of those figures are tied up in base salary, so while an acquiring club would be responsible for those totals, none of that money is guaranteed, meaning Cutler would essentially be a year-to-year proposition.
In the past month, Cutler has been loosely linked to a couple of quarterback-needy teams, including the 49ers and Jets, though no club has expressed solid interest (the Cardinals, for one, are decidedly not interested). That no team has begun strong negotiations for Cutler is unsurprising given both his salary and the results of his 2016 campaign, during which he was hampered by injuries and managed a Total Quarterback Rating of just 33.1 in five starts.
Dealing Cutler would allow the Bears to not only clear $14MM in cap space (vaulting them into the top-five in terms of NFL room), but signify the official start of Chicago’s hunt for a new quarterback. Matt Barkley remains on the roster as a restricted free agent, while veteran Brian Hoyer is unrestricted but could be retained. However, the Bears will likely explore all avenues as it searches for a franchise passer, undertaking a lengthy exercise by scouring both the draft and trade market.
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An offseason union between quarterback Jay Cutler and the Cardinals wouldn’t be “shocking,” opines Peter King of TheMMQB.com, who adds that a multi-year deal with incentives would make some sense for both sides. At first glance, Cutler signing — and presumably becoming a backup to Carson Palmer — appears unlikely, but as King notes, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians isn’t afraid to take chances on certain veteran players. Still, King is probably speculating rather than reporting, and Cutler is likely to target a starting job after (almost assuredly) being released by the Bears.
- Although one recent report indicated agent Don Yee would lead the hunt for a Jimmy Garoppolo trade partner, Yee is planning to let the Patriots and Bill Belichick handle such negotiations, as Tony Grossi of ESPN.com writes. “I don’t really have any information at this moment of time about that,” Yee said. “Everybody’s getting ready for the combine as well as preparing for free agency. I don’t know anything at all about what the Patriots plan to do, nor would I even presume to have any suggestion as to what they should do.” Garoppolo is expected to be the top target for a number of clubs this offseason, including the Browns, Bears, and 49ers.
- The Bears have infiltrated a Las Vegas sports book’s top picks for Tony Romo‘s landing spot. Sportsbook.ag’s R.J. Bell (via the Dallas Morning News) projects the Bears as Romo’s fourth-most likely 2017 employer — behind the Texans, Broncos and Cowboys. Houston’s emerged as the favorite despite the organization’s known stance being to avoid getting involved for Romo. Interestingly, the Chiefs are down at No. 5 after being viewed as a primary destination. ESPN.com also projected a Bears/Romo partnership as being more likely than many believe.
- The Bears are expected to hire Derius Swinton as the club’s assistant special teams coach, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Swinton previously served in that capacity with Chicago in 2015 but became the 49ers’ special teams coordinator last season.
“Those things will pick up as we get further down the road,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said of contract negotiations with free agent receiver Alshon Jeffery. However, as Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times writes, those decisions will start to “pick up” next week. Wednesday is the first day teams can assign the franchise tag to their impending free agents, and Jefferey could surely be in line to be slapped with the designation.
Jeffery also received the franchise tag last offseason, meaning his projected tag value for this season would be around $17MM. Jefferey didn’t necessarily have a “prove-it” season thanks in part to a four-game suspension, so the organization may not want to make the 27-year-old one of the highest paid wideouts for a second-straight year. Additionally, the Bears may not want to invest in the receiver long-term.
- The Bears have interviewed Bob Bicknell, Ronald Curry, and George McDonald as part of their effort to find a new wide receivers coach, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Bicknell has coached wideouts at the NFL level since 2012, spending time with Buffalo, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Curry, a former NFL wide receiver himself, has worked on the Raiders’ and 49ers’ staffs, while McDonald has spent the past several years in the coaching ranks.
- Ex-Saints defensive assistant James Willis is a candidate for the Bears‘ assistant defensive line coach position and will interview this week, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. New Orleans relieved Willis of his duties last month after he’d spent two years with the club. Willis previously coached in the NCAA with Alabama, Auburn, and Texas Tech.