Yet the main reason Cutler sat?
The Bears are ready to move on from Cutler, the NFL’s highest-paid player who leads the league in turnovers.
Despite giving him a solid offensive line, Pro Bowlers at every skill position and an offensive-minded head coach, Cutler has regressed. He’ll be 32 next season, so it’s obvious he’s not the club’s long-term answer at quarterback.
How Phil Emery failed to see that before making Cutler the richest quarterback in franchise history is the question everyone is asking. Due to the $126.7 million contract Emery gave his turnover-prone passer this past offseason, the Bears are in a financial nightmare.
Cutler is guaranteed $15.5 million next year, which will be a major sticking point in any trade negotiations. That might force the team to cut him and if another club signs Cutler, the Bears will only be on the hook for the difference in his salary.
For example, if Chicago cuts him and the Tennessee Titans sign him for $7 million next year, the Bears would only have to pay the remaining $8.5 million of the $15.5 million he’s owed. So cutting him is one way of reducing his dead money hit.
Waiving Cutler would also save the club an additional $10 million. If Cutler is waived by the third day of the 2015 league year, the Bears can wipe that money off the books, but only if he’s not injured.
If Cutler goes out and suffers a serious injury in Minneapolis this weekend, not only will the franchise have to pay his $15.5 million next year but they’ll also have no choice but to eat an additional $10 million.
That’s problematic not only from a financial standpoint but it would also leave the club no other choice but to retain Cutler through the 2016 season.
Consider this scenario: the head coach you want to replace Marc Trestman this offseason is available and willing. He’s excited to take over the NFL’s charter franchise, yet he doesn’t think Cutler is answer. He doesn’t feel he can bring home a championship with a quarterback who has won just one playoff game in his 10-year career.
If Cutler is sitting at home with a torn ACL, your new head coach is likely going to find work elsewhere.
It’s a scenario the Bears could avoid by putting sixth-round rookie David Fales under center against the Vikings this weekend.
“I think the fact that he’s on the 53-man roster says a lot about what we think about him and wanting to give him an opportunity down the road to continue to grow and progress as a quarterback in the league,” Trestman said this week.
Yet alas, Trestman is still sticking to the “we want to win this week” frame of mind that has resulted in a 5-10 football team. As a result, Cutler will be thrown to the wolves with far-reaching implications.
This season has been a borderline-unwatchable train wreck. If Cutler is seriously injured on Sunday, the upcoming offseason will follow suit.
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.