By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) You may not like anything about Jay Cutler.
You may find him to be a peevish sot with a face deserving to be slapped, but he is the Chicago Bears’ quarterback and he needs to remain in that position.
There are plenty of questions about Cutler, and you can start with his 1-8 record with the Bears against the Green Bay Packers (1-9, if you include his record with the Denver Broncos). He also has the worst body language of any established quarterback in the NFL. You will never see Cutler strike the same kind of pose as Peyton Manning or Drew Brees when it comes to exhorting his teammates after a poor series or prior to an upcoming one.
Manning will shake his fist and try to get his offensive players riled up and Brees will show his confidence as well. Cutler will wrap himself in his parka, take a seat on the heated bench and wonder what Kristin is making him for dinner.
Not exactly an inspiring figure, but that’s not in Cutler’s nature. In one way, you do have to admire him because he is not following a script and he is simply being true to himself.
While that personality may be objectionable, the bigger picture is that he’s not a phony. His honesty – if that’s what it is – should carry him a long way in life.
But the matter at hand is whether Cutler remains a viable quarterback for the Bears. His contract is up and if the Bears choose to part company with him, he will be a free agent who can sign with any other team.
If they want him and can’t negotiate a new deal, they can apply the franchise tag and bring him back for $16-18 million.
If they can sign him to a new deal, he will be Chicago Bears property for five years at a cost of $18-20 million a year.
You can argue that Cutler is not worth it, but that’s the going rate for quarterbacks in the NFL. Great quarterbacks get that kind of money, but so do mediocre quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford gets that kind of money and his inconsistent play was a big part of the reason the Lions failed to make the playoffs.
Other non-playoff quarterbacks with huge deals include Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and Tony Romo.
Additionally, Cutler is coming to the market in a year when very few top quarterbacks are going to be available. Michael Vick, Chad Henne and Josh Freeman are the other quarterbacks teams like the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals will have to choose from.
If the Bears let Cutler walk, they will have a huge hole at the quarterback position. They will have to draft a quarterback, because Josh McCown is not a viable starter.
He is an excellent backup, and he did a superb job in leading the Bears while Cutler was battling injuries. However, there is nothing to indicate that the 34-year-old McCown can be a top-level starting quarterback. That’s a pipe dream and it’s simply not realistic.
The Bears have too much work to do on the defensive side of the ball to tear apart what they have been building on offense. You may hate Cutler’s personality, but he can make all the throws needed to obliterate most defenses and he has the weapons in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett to keep on doing it.
Take away Cutler, and you are missing the most important ingredient needed to have a productive offense.
Cutler is never going to be Manning or Tom Brady, but here’s what he can be: A Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Cutler is at least as good as Flacco, who was good enough to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the podium last February even though he could not get his team to the playoffs this year.
Cutler is good enough to put it together for one year and lead a solid team to the championship.
The Bears are solid on offense. They need to tinker with the offensive line in the offseason, but they are very close to where they need to be.
They are not close on defense. Lance Briggs can get himself in shape and give the Bears one or two more productive years. But they need defensive line help and the secondary is awful at this point.
The Bears can’t be chasing after a new quarterback in the offseason because the defense needs to be rebuilt.
The quarterback may have an objectionable personality, but he can play the game, and that’s what matters most.