Jay Cutler is the highest paid player on the Chicago Bears roster. He's due $17 million this season and carries a $19 million cap hit if cut.
In 2017 and beyond, Cutler is guaranteed very little money. In fact, if the club were to cut him before the start of next season, they would owe him just $3 million, while saving $71.7 million over the final four years of his deal.
He'll be 33 at the end of this month and he's won just one playoff game in 10 NFL seasons. He improved to a certain extent last year but anyone who still feels Cutler is a long-term option in Chicago is fooling himself.
Any regression this season and it will be Cutler's last in the Windy City.
As such, the Bears need to start preparing for life without Cutler within the next year or two. With no starter-worthy veterans left on the free agent market, the team will look to the draft to find Cutler's long-term successor.
With that in mind, here is a film-based scouting report on Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, a first-round prospect who will likely be available to the Bears at 11th overall.
Paxton Lynch, Memphis (6-7, 244) Junior, Age: 22
Lynch redshirted his freshman season at Memphis but went on to become the full-time starter the following three years. He led the Tigers to a 10-win season in 2014 and was named second-team All-AAC.
In 2015, he completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,776 yards, 28 TDs and 4 INTs. His best performance came against an SEC opponent, Ole Miss, in which he completed 39 of 53 passes for 384 yards and 3 TDs. In Memphis' 63-0 win over MSU, Lynch tied an FBS record with 7 TD passes in a half.
40-yard dash: 4.86
Vertical jump: 36.0 inches
Broad jump: 9-10
3-cone drill: 7.14
His arms measured 34 1/4 inches. His hands measured 10 1/4 inches.
-Top-tier size and length. His height allows him to easily see over defenders and eliminates most batted balls.
-Good agility and quickness. Feels pressure and can evade. Will make you pay with his legs if contain is lost.
-Throws well on the move.
-Very good arm strength. A lot of zip on his passes. Can throw the deep sideline route.
-Fits balls into tight windows.
-Consistent delivery. Average quickness to his throws.
-Very tough to stop as a runner in short-yardage situations.
-Reportedly has a high football IQ. Student of the game.
-Accuracy is very inconsistent. Decent on short passes but gets worse the further he pushes the ball down the field.
-Lacks good touch on the deep ball. He'd much rather put it on a rope.
-Strong arm hurts him at times, as he'll try to fit balls into tight areas, which will get him hurt at the next level.
-Must improve decision making.
-Never played under center. Learning traditional drop back will take time.
-Throws off back foot when pressure comes, which further hurts his accuracy.
Is Lynch worth the 11th overall pick?
This might be the toughest decision for Bears GM Ryan Pace if Lynch is on the board when it's his turn to pick in the first round. Pace has stressed the importance of the quarterback position on numerous occasions and said in December that Cutler's presence would not preclude him from drafting a passer this year.
Pace understands Cutler's limitations as a quarterback and surely has concerns about longevity from a 33-year-old who has underachieved for most of his career. The Bears can win with Cutler, he's not a lost cause, but it's unlikely the Bears will ever win because of Cutler.
There are no other viable starting options on the roster, nor in free agency, so the draft is the only place Pace can land a potential franchise signal caller. The top two QBs, California's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, will very likely be off the board when the Bears pick at 11. If either falls, it's highly likely Pace will take him.
Lynch clearly has the highest upside of the remaining passers, so if Goff and Wentz are gone, does Pace pull the trigger on the former Tiger?
The problem with Lynch is that he's nowhere near ready to play in the NFL. In fact, he's probably two years away from developing into a viable starter. For a 6-10 team with a number of holes on the roster, dumping the 11th pick on a guy who may not play until 2018 would be a tough pill for many Bears fans to swallow.
Yet the importance of a franchise passer cannot be understated in today's NFL. Yes Denver won a Super Bowl with a broken down old man under center, yet the Broncos also had one of the greatest defenses of the past 15 years. Those are hard to come by and take a long time to build.
Most years, quarterback play is the crux to a team's shot at a championship. You need all three phases to win, but if your QB stinks, it's like doing it on one leg.
Bears fans understand this as well as fans of any NFL team - although the Browns are on a far more depressing level. Lynch isn't a sure thing and will surely take time to develop but he could be special. Players with his size, mobility, arm strength and high character don't come around every draft. If Lynch hits his ceiling, he'll be a Pro Bowler.
Objectively, no Lynch is not worth the 11th pick in the draft. He carries too much risk and he won't have an immediate impact.
In terms of the Bears' need at quarterback and his high ceiling, you can certainly justify taking Lynch at 11.
Ideally, the Bears find a way to trade back and still land Lynch but there are a lot of teams who consider him the best quarterback in this class. If Pace is in that group, then he's going to consider Lynch in the first round.
If Pace doesn't feel Lynch is worth the risk, he should try and find a team on draft day who is looking to trade up.