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 78.1 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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