The Chicago Bears are reportedly doing the inevitable on Thursday, reportedly releasing Jay Cutler after eight up-and-down seasons with the team. Cutler will become a free agent and can sign with whichever team he’d like, but it’s unclear how many suitors he’ll actually have on the open market.
He’s likely to land somewhere, seeing as he’s just 33 years old and has some gas left in the tank, it’s just a matter of where (and when).
Here are five potential destinations for the veteran quarterback this offseason.
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Carson Palmer is returning, but he does have an injury history. Not to mention, he’s 37 years old and his play isn’t what it once was. Cutler wouldn’t unseat Palmer as the starter, but he’d be an insurance policy in the event that Palmer gets injured again.
Bruce Arians likes big-armed quarterbacks who can sling it, which is exactly what Cutler is. He can drive the ball downfield, and while he may be a bit turnover-prone, he does have one of the best arms in the NFL.
The Cardinals don’t have a ton of cap space, but if Cutler doesn’t have many suitors on the open market, he may have to settle for a job as a backup quarterback. The Cardinals would give him a decent chance to win a Super Bowl while also having a shot to play in the event that Palmer gets hurt.
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Cutler had one of his best seasons ever with Adam Gase was his offensive coordinator in Chicago two years ago. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions in 15 games.
They weren’t eye-popping numbers, of course, but by his standards, they were solid. He completed passes at a higher rate, only threw 11 interceptions and was making better decisions on the field.
Gase, not coincidentally, is now the head coach of the Dolphins, and has done a terrific job of developing Ryan Tannehill. There’s no doubt Tannehill will be the starter in 2017, but adding competition wouldn’t hurt. He improved with Gase as his head coach last season, but with just 19 touchdown passes in 13 games, those are hardly impressive numbers. Cutler could be a decent fallback plan if Tannehill falters down the stretch.
Blake Bortles has done next to nothing to prove he’s the answer for the Jaguars. He regressed in 2016 to the point where his mechanics were borderline atrocious. His accuracy was inconsistent and he failed to capitalize on the playmakers he had around him.
Cutler wouldn’t be a surefire starter in Jacksonville, but he would be the first bit of competition Bortles has had since being drafted by the Jaguars. Chad Henne isn’t pressing him, and Tom Coughlin made it clear that he needs to improve in 2017.
By bringing in Cutler, he can at least put some heat on Bortles. Training camp would then be crucial for Bortles, knowing there’s a viable veteran right behind him. And heck, who knows? Maybe Cutler goes out and wows coaches to the point where he earns the starting job.
The Browns need a quarterback, which is something that’s written every offseason. Cutler would be the best quarterback on their current roster, which figures to get an infusion of youth when they eventually draft one at No. 1 or No. 12. Cutler wouldn’t be certain to win the starting job, but in the event that Cleveland gets wiped out of their quarterback targets at No. 12, he could be a bridge for one year.
There’s no guarantee Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky or any of the top quarterbacks will be starters in Year 1, which is where Cutler would help. He’d allow the Browns to have some patience at quarterback while also not fielding a completely inept offense. At least Cutler has played decently the past few years, unlike Robert Griffin III.
Cleveland needs to consider all options this offseason.
New York Jets
The Jets are the team that makes the most sense. They don’t have a quarterback, they have two unproven youngsters in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, and the offense is in need of help.
Cutler isn’t a top-tier quarterback, but he does have elite physical traits. His arm strength is still among the best in the league, and he has decent mobility within the pocket.
Depending on his cost, the Jets could bring him in as a low-risk fallback plan in the event that Hackenberg and Petty can’t prove they’re ready to take over the starting job. Cutler would at least give them a bridge for one year. The Jets aren’t going to make the playoffs with their current roster, so why not see what Cutler has left in the tank on a low-risk, short-term deal?