Yet benching Cutler has implications that go far beyond his struggles as a passer this year.
The move indicates the team’s desire to move on from Cutler in the long-term. Despite signing him to a seven-year, $127.6 million contract this past offseason, Cutler’s performance this year was apparently the final straw for Bears brass.
The ideal scenario would be to find a team willing to trade for Cutler, yet his $15.5 million contract next year might make that difficult.
Beyond that, the team’s only other option is to cut him. Cutler’s cap hit is $19.5 million next year, so that’s a tough pill to swallow but if the Bears truly want to start from scratch, that will be the only route to take.
Benching Cutler now plays into that second scenario. If the Bears waive him before the third day of the 2015 league year, they can trim $10 million off his salary. They’ll still be on the hook for the $19.5 million next season but beyond that, their hands are clean.
Yet if he’s injured, Cutler will receive the full $10 million, as injured players can’t be denied roster bonuses. Allowing Cutler to play the next two weeks puts him at risk of a $10 million injury, which is why he’s now the highest paid backup in the NFL.
Additionally, if the Bears cut Cutler and he's signed by another NFL team, the club will only be on the hook for the difference between his old salary ($15.5 million) and his new salary, which would cushion the blow.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.