Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's contract is up after this season. Since being traded for in 2009, Cutler has yet to live up to the potential he showed in Denver, where he was a Pro Bowl signal caller.
There hasn't been much discussion about a contract extension, possibly because GM Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman would like Cutler to earn a long-term franchise deal. Considering his regression in 2012 – despite having his handpicked quarterbacks coach, an offensive coordinator that gave him more freedom than he ever had previous and his old pass-catching partner Brandon Marshall – it's safe to say that the jury is still out on Cutler, whose passer rating last season (81.5) was the worst of his career.
If he continues to take steps backward next year, will the front office feel comfortable handing him a contract worth eight figures annually? And if Cutler feels slighted, like he did under Josh McDaniels in Denver, will he take his ball and go home?
With this in mind, there's no guarantee Cutler will be in Chicago beyond 2013. Trestman is known for developing quarterbacks. From Bernie Kosar to Steve Young to Rich Gannon, Chicago's new head coach has plenty of experience with some of the best NFL signal caller of the past 30 years. But Cutler is a different animal, one whose fundamentals are currently in the tank and who has shown a tendency toward anger and impatience.
If Trestman and Cutler butt heads, the Bears could easily have a new quarterback under center in 2014.
Beyond the starter, Chicago is also in the market for a developmental signal caller, one Trestman can mold. Jason Campbell and Josh McCown are both options as veteran backups – although Campbell will have to take a significant pay cut to return next season – yet neither are long-term options. So the Bears may also be targeting some mid-round passers with upside.
Bear Report breaks down the incoming class of quarterbacks to find the best fits for the Monsters of the Midway.
**Editor's Note: For our purposes, we will leave out Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon, all of whom are potential first-round selections. Despite the uncertainty with Cutler, there's no chance the Bears will take a quarterback in the first round.**
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (6-2, 215)
As a junior, Wilson was a finalist for the Manning and Unitas Goldemn Arm Awards, throwing for 3,638 yards and 24 TDs. His production dropped off his senior season, as the Razorback program took a collective step back, and he wasn't that impressive in the Senior Bowl, but Wilson is still very highly regarded. He's outstanding on the short and intermediate routes, which would make him a great fit for Trestman's West Coast system. Yet he struggles with the deep ball and he must shorten his delivery. He has the potential to start in the NFL and possesses the qualities Trestman is looking for. If the Bears want to put real pressure on Cutler and are willing to spend a second-round pick on a QB, Wilson would be a great option. Projected: Round 2
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (6-5, 237)
Manuel has all the traits of an NFL quarterback, including ideal size and arm strength. He was a beast at the combine, where he was a top performer amongst QBs in the 40-yard dash (4.69), the vertical jump (34.0), broad jump (118.0), 3-cone drill (7.08) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21). He's extremely athletic and has loads of potential but he's still relatively raw and struggles mightily with both his mechanics and decision-making. He was very impressive at the Senior Bowl though and was named Most Outstanding Player. Manuel still has a long way to go before he becomes an NFL starter but if the Bears want to roll the dice on his extreme athleticism, they could get rewarded down the line. Projected: Round 2
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse (6-2, 227)
Nassib was a three-year starter for a struggling Syracuse program. He stood out though, showing progression each year. As a senior, he threw for 3,749 yards, 26 touchdown and 10 interceptions. His has a strong arm and he's very mobile. He doesn't possess ideal size and has a gunslinger mentality, which could be dangerous at the next level. He must work on his decision-making but his cannon for an arm gives him something substantial to work with. Projected: Round 2-3
Tyler Bray, Tennessee (6-6, 232)
Bray his ideal size and elite arm strength. He's experienced as well, starting two years in the SEC. Yet as a senior, Bray failed to meet expectations and did not progress as most anticipated. He's physically gifted but his fundamentals are extremely inconsistent. He's a pure pocket passer, so he doesn't offer much as a scrambler. If Trestman feels he can clean up Bray's technique, his natural talent could take him a long way. If Chicago can trade back and pick up a third-round pick, Bray wouldn't be a bad choice, assuming he falls that far. Projected: Round 2-3
Landry Jones, Oklahoma (6-4, 225)
Jones was a three-year starter for the Sooners who put up gaudy collegiate numbers. As a senior, he threw for 4,267 yards with 30 TDs and 11 INTs. Landry has a strong arm, he's accurate and can complete passes to any part of the field. He reads defenses well and has a very quick release, which will do him well in the NFL. Yet he's not an elite athlete (think Matt Cassel) and he's a mess when under duress. Until he figures out how to deal with the blitz, he'll never develop into a pro starter. If Trestman can build his confidence and help him adjust to pressure, he could be just the type of developmental player the Bears are looking for. Projected: Round 3-4
Zac Dysert, Miami of Ohio (6-3, 231)
Dysert was a four-year starter and surpassed Ben Roethlisberger as Miami of Ohio's all-time passing leader (12,016 yards). He's a big, thick passer with quick feet and decent athleticism. His experience and production give him a leg up on some of the other quarterbacks on this list. Yet Dysert is still a project who has a very inconsistent arm. He's not patient in the pocket, too often choosing to tuck and run when the first read was taken away. He's also had durability issues and did not participate in the combine due to a hamstring pull. He has upside though and, in the fifth round, could be a risk worth taking for the Bears. Projected: Round 4-5
Matt Scott, Arizona (6-2, 213)
Scott is another outstanding athlete. At the combine, he finished as a top performer in every drill in which he competed. He has great speed and quickness, and a strong arm. He was a great fit for Rich Rodriguez's spread offense in Arizona, yet that doesn't always translate to the NFL, which is why he's only considered a mid-round selection. Scott is quick to run out of the pocket and often throws into coverage. He does throw well on the run and has all the physical attributes to be a quality NFL backup, with the potential for more. As a developmental player, I like Scott a lot, as his running ability would add another dimension to Chicago's offense if he were ever called into duty. Projected: Round 5
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.