On Thursday the team announced Cutler would miss the remainder of the year and undergo surgery on a torn labrum, which will result in him being placed on injured reserve.
John Fox announces that after exhausting other options Jay Cutler will have labrum surgery this Saturday and will be placed on IR.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) December 1, 2016
Matt Barkley is the guy moving forward for the Bears, who are going nowhere fast at 2-9 and host the 1-10 49ers on Sunday in a game that has implications for positioning near the top of the 2017 NFL Draft.
There's a very good chance that Cutler is no longer with the Bears next year. The dead money on his contract drops from $19 million -- which made him essentially uncuttable coming into the year -- to $2 million, which makes him imminently cuttable, especially when his cap hit is $16 million.
It's entirely possible that Cutler remains Chicago's the best available option in 2017, even at a pretty high price, given what's considered a weak QB class in the draft. There could be some big names in free agency, like Kirk Cousins, but it's not guaranteed.
John Fox is no guarantee to be around next year, either, and a new coach could potentially favor Cutler. We'll assume it won't be Josh McDaniels, who originally traded Cutler to Chicago in the first place.
Assuming that, there are some pretty solid landing spots for the former first-round pick, who will have his pick of teams and will likely be looking for a would-be contender. The Browns and 49ers need a quarterback but won't want to pay Cutler and Cutler won't want to play there.
The team he's likely most interested in won't have any competition at the quarterback position. This is where the Dolphins get tricky.
He'll need an offensive coordinator or head coach who empowers him and is someone either he's worked with previously or someone willing to let him be Jay. Again, the Dolphins get tricky.
Here are seven candidates:
With some help from colleague Sean Wagner-McGough, who broke down four options previously for Cutler, here's a list of seven teams that could be options for the grizzled veteran, from least to most likely.
Bruce Arians is a huge fan of Cutler and it's too hard to say for sure where Carson Palmer will be next year (he's owed $24.5 million and has $13 million in dead money next year). If there is a vacancy in Arizona, Cutler makes a lot of sense. Him chucking it deep in Arians' offense to those weapons would be fun to watch.
The Texans just paid $72 million to Brock Osweiler and it's not going well. Cutler protected in Houston with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Lamar Miller? That's a little engine that could. The financials are tricky with paying Osweiler and Cutler but you just have to deal with one more year of Brock.
Blake Bortles looks broken and who knows what the new regime -- we assume anyway, sorry Gus Bradley -- will want in a quarterback. Bortles was a very high pick, but Jacksonville isn't afraid to move on from a first-round pick -- sorry, Blaine Gabbert -- and invest in a different quarterback. The Jaguars, under a new coach in a bad division, could be considered a contender. Or at least we'll all talk ourselves into it this offseason.
Cutler doesn't feel like an Andy Reid type of quarterback, but maybe he would be a better fit than we think. He has a cannon arm and put in the right situation with the right coaching, he's shown an ability to raise his game. If you fall short in the playoffs again would you definitely rather have the low ceiling Alex Smith for $17 million next year over the low- floor Cutler if you're Reid and the Chiefs?
They make tons of sense because of Cutler's success with Adam Gase, who was his 2015 offensive coordinator in Chicago. But Miami is playing well right now and has Ryan Tannehill under contract. It's hard to imagine Miami ditching Tannehill if he continues to develop and make the playoffs. They have too much invested in him and he's substantially younger (28) than Cutler (33).
Easily the best fit out of these teams. Brandon Marshall is there, they've shown a willingness to use a veteran quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick is out, Bryce Petty's not the answer, Geno Smith is out and Christian Hackenberg isn't ready to play yet. Cutler would be a very nice one- or two-year fill-in for a team with a lot of talent that fell short because of the quarterback position again.
Kirk Cousins is playing lights out lately, but he's going to want north of $20 million. Maybe Scot McCloughan looks at his team and sees the possibility of paying Cutler less while letting someone else to invest in Cousins and the risk proposition that comes along.