Bears waiting for medical clearance to decide Jay Cutler's future

ByJeff Dickerson ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace described Jay Cutler's situation as "fluid" on Wednesday, partly because the quarterback has not been medically cleared following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder in December.

The Bears have been actively shopping Cutler since the end of the season and would open up $13 million in salary-cap space if they trade or release the veteran quarterback. But none of that can happen until Cutler is healthy enough to pass a physical.

"Jay's under contract, so it's fluid. I would describe it as fluid," Pace told reporters at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "There are a lot of conversations going on between us and Bus Cook. I think one of the things with Jay I value is his agent, Bus Cook. We're close, and I think at times like these that relationship is important because we can be honest and transparent. I think he's one of the top agents out there, and I think that helps in this process."

Pace added: "[Cutler] is far along in his rehab. I wouldn't say he's there yet, but he's definitely ahead of [schedule]. He hasn't gotten to that point yet [where he's been medically cleared], but he's ahead of schedule."

The general manager left the door open for Cutler to return in 2017, although that scenario is highly unlikely.

"At this point we pretty much have everything on the table," Pace said. "For us, to do it the responsible way, that's necessary."

Cutler is under contract through 2020, but there is no guaranteed money left on his deal. His base salary in 2017 is scheduled to be $12.5 million, and he can earn $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses if he is on the active roster on game day.

The 2017 salary is modest for an NFL starting quarterback, but Cutler is coming off a disappointing season in which he started only five games because of injuries.

The Bears would carry $2 million in dead money -- the remaining portion of his restructured prorated signing bonus -- with Cutler off the roster.

Cutler, who turns 34 in April, holds almost every passing record in franchise history, but he has led the Bears to just one playoff appearance in eight seasons.

Chicago's arguably most polarizing athlete, Cutler has been through a tenure with the Bears that has been marked by turnovers. He has 109 interceptions in 102 regular-season games for the Bears, including a career-worst 26 picks in 2009 after the club paid a hefty price to acquire him from the Denver Broncos.

He has cycled through six offensive coordinators in Chicago. The Bears' revolving door of playcallers also contributed to Cutler's failure to develop into a premier franchise quarterback.

Cutler did lead the Bears to the NFC Championship Game in 2010 -- a contest he left because of a knee injury -- and posted a career-best 92.3 passer rating in 2015, but those achievements have been largely overshadowed by his struggles protecting the football.

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