As all Chicago Bears fans are aware, lack of depth at the quarterback position cost the team a shot at the playoffs last season. Caleb Hanie inherited a 7-3 team after Jay Cutler went down with a thumb injury. Hanie subsequently threw nine interceptions, compared to just three touchdowns, over the next four games – all losses – dropping the Bears out of the playoff race.
Obviously, the organization learned its lesson. In less than 24 hours since free agency began, GM Phil Emery has signed two veteran signal callers to backup Cutler. They inked seven-year veteran Jason Campbell to a one-year deal yesterday. Campbell is still good enough to start in the NFL, yet paying him $3.5 million – with incentives that could add another $1 million to the deal – is a hefty sum for a backup.
The team piggybacked that move by re-signing Josh McCown to a one-year deal this afternoon. McCown was signed off the street last year after Cutler's injury and proved he can still win in the NFL.
QB Josh McCown
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
McCown has started 33 of 50 games played in nine NFL seasons with the Cardinals (2002-05), Lions (2006), Raiders (2007), Panthers (2008-09) and Bears (2011) after entering the league as a third round selection (81st overall) by Arizona in the 2002 Draft. The 6-4, 213-pound quarterback out of Sam Houston State has completed 645 of 1,113 (58.0 percent) passing attempts during his NFL career for 6,998 yards, 37 touchdowns and 44 interceptions for a 71.2 passer rating.
In three games, two starts, for the Bears last season, McCown was 35 of 55 (63.6 percent) passing for 414 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, including 470 total yards – 402 passing and 68 rushing – in his two starts. He helped the guide the team to a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the season finale.
One thing is for sure: Chicago does not have to worry about its quarterback position next year. If Cutler goes down, Campbell – who has started 70 games in his NFL career – can step in. If Campbell goes down, the Bears can then toss in McCown, an established, 10-year veteran.
While the position is stable, this might be borderline overkill. Most NFL teams keep one veteran and one developmental quarterback to backup the starter. Chicago has last season's fifth-round pick Nathan Enderle still on the roster. Does this move mean the Bears will go forward without Enderle, who is still a project, or do they roster four QBs and de-activate Enderle on game days?
They might let McCown and Enderle fight it out in training camp next year – which makes the most sense. Enderle was awful last season and did not progress. If he hasn't shown improvement, there's no point in wasting a roster spot for him. Let McCown be the No. 3.
Yet it would be risky to cut a developmental signal caller when the two guys ahead of him are signed to one-year deals. If both McCown and Campbell walk next offseason, where does that leave the team? And consider, barring an extension, Cutler becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. So having a young guy in the pipeline is fairly crucial at this point.
In 2012, the Bears will be set. They have three passers on the roster that have proven they can win in this league. Yet by keeping three veterans, all on deals of two years or less, they could be handcuffing themselves down the line.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.