Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace clearly preparing to move on from QB Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is going to weigh every available option this off-season when attempting to solidify the quarterback position, a task he considers "critical."

The Jay Cutler era may soon be coming to a close for the Chicago Bears.

In eight season with Cutler under center, the Bears have made the payoffs just once. He hasn't played 16 games in a regular season since 2009 and in the five games he started this year, he had just four TDs and seven turnovers.

The Bears have gone nowhere under Cutler, whose guaranteed money has all but dried up. As such, many assume Cutler has played his last snap in Chicago, myself included.

GM Ryan Pace did very little to quell those assumptions.

"I met with probably 30 players on Monday and one of them was Jay," Pace said today. "You know there's a lot of real candid conversations that take place and a lot of transparency and honesty so some of those things I'd like to keep between us. But once we make a decision as an organization, whatever it is, he'll be the first to know and his agent, Bus Cook, will be the first to know and I made him that promise. But again those decisions haven't been completely finalized yet but when they are you know he'll know immediately."

If Pace intended on retaining Cutler, he would not have offered such a nebulous answer. Clearly he told Cutler there's a chance he'll be cut, which would save the team more than $12 million in cap space next season, and that Bus Cook would be the first to know when that happens.

Pace also went to great lengths to underscore the importance of the QB position and how it will affect the team moving forward.

“In my mind, there is no more important position than the quarterback," Pace said. "It is a critical, critical position. And I know and I recognize that the decision that we make on that quarterback is going to be significant for all of us for the direction that this organization is going to head.

"Trust me, I understand the magnitude of that decision going forward. That's a critical, critical decision for me and this whole building."

Pace outlined what he's looking for in the team's long-term passer of the future.

"I mean there's a lot of things we value in that position," said Pace. "You know this year it was about consistency and availability, you know we played with so many different quarterbacks it was hard to find continuity. But I think we're looking for consistency and productivity from that position and I think we'll find it this off-season."

If the Bears elect to draft a young signal caller, which appears likely, Pace feels offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone are well suited to develop a rookie quarterback.

"I think they showed this year basically playing three, four different quarterbacks," Pace said. "I think it says something to bring Matt Barkley late in the year and him function well for a guy that wasn’t even with us during training camp. I think that says something about those guys. I like the fact that Ragone played quarterback at a high level. I think that’s important when you’re coaching that position and asking them to do certain things that you’ve seen yourself. I think this situation is set up well to handle that if that ends up being what happens.

"If you are talking about adding a quarterback, you want to make sure your roster is equipped to handle that quarterback. When you come into a situation where there are a lot of holes and there are a lot of heavy lifting that needs to take place and you’re trying to fill needs all over the roster, hey when the position comes and it’s right for us to strike a quarterback, the environment’s more conducive for that quarterback to have success."

Bottom line: Pace showed no confidence today that Cutler will return and appeared very willing to talk a future without him. Unless something dramatic changes over the next few months, don't expect Cutler back next season.

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