The idea of a team picking up Jay Cutler’s $15.5 million base salary for next season seems utterly ridiculous. When you take into account the fact that the Chicago Bears replaced him with a career back up that’s 1-9 as a starter, and it seems even crazier.
But some quarterback-needy team will pull the plug on a trade for the embattled signal caller when the new league years gets going in March. There simply isn’t the talent that Cutler possesses on display throughout the NFL. And while it could very well cost that team’s general manager and coach their jobs, Cutler will be picked up on the trade block.
After all, wasn’t Matt Schaub just recently traded? What about Donovan McNabb in the twilight of his career? Heck, even Carson Palmer was moved after a disastrous season-plus with the Raiders.
About 15 people in this entire world can play the quarterback position at a relatively high level. At his best, Cutler is one of these people.
So here are five teams that could make a move for the struggling veteran.
1. Washington Redskins
By now it’s not a secret that the Redskins quarterback situation is a dumpster fire. Head coach Jay Gruden has consistently thrown Robert Griffin III under the bus, and was just recently forced to start the No. 2 overall pick after career backup Colt McCoy was lost for the season. Hopes that Kirk Cousins would take the job and run with it earlier in the season faded after he failed at every turn.
And now, here we are.
If Gruden does return to D.C., which seems like an entirely plausible scenario right now, the team will look to move on from RGIII and find another quarterback. And short of doling out a high-round pick for the Marcus Mariota’s and Jameis Winston’s of the world, that quarterback will come via the veteran market.
Based on the projected 2015 salary cap, Washington would be a about $16 million under the cap. This doesn’t even take into account the potential that Washington could shed $7 million by trading RGIII and yet another $1.2 million by releasing DeAngelo Hall. The money is here. The need is here. It just makes too much sense.
2. New York Jets
I am not entirely too sure how Cutler’s act would work in New York. Justly or not, he’s been the subject of undying criticism within the local Chicago media. So, the Jets might need some assurances from Cutler that his act won’t be an issue, especially considering the team’s stance on media relations.
On the field, Cutler would be an upgrade over both Geno Smith and Michael Vick. While turnover-prone, the veteran possesses the ability to get the ball down the field. That could work well with Percy Harvin seemingly set to play an important role in 2015. More than that, Cutler has always liked using his tight end. Enter into the equation 2014 second-round pick Jace Amaro, who has the talent to be a Pro Bowl tight end.
If the offseason were to start today under the projected $140 million cap, the Jets would have about $12 million to spend. That’s a less-than-ideal scenario for a two-win football team. It’s also a figure that could increase with the potential releases of some under-performing veterans. Acquiring Cutler for a likely late-round pick would also afford the Jets to spend what promises to be a top-three pick at another position of need.
3. Tennessee Titans
Rookie Zach Mettenberger looked darn good in his limited playing time this season. He has to be seen as the odds-on favorite to be the team’s franchise signal caller moving forward. And while some have linked Marcus Mariota to the Titans, I envision them looking to upgrade a horrendous defensive front with a better value pick in the top five.
With a young running back in Bishop Sankey, solid all-around offensive line and a couple up-and-coming wide receivers, this would be an ideal fit for Cutler. Tennessee also possesses the salary cap flexibility to pick up Cutler’s contract. It would also afford Tennessee the ability to give Mattenberger some more time before he’s given the keys to the offense.
4. San Francisco 49ers
This may come completely out of left field, but just envision this scenario for a second. San Francisco parts ways with Jim Harbaugh at the end of the season, which seems to be a foregone conclusion at this point. It then replaces Harbaugh with a traditional offensive mind in the form of say a Mike Holmgren. At that point, Colin Kaepernick’s tutor and the man that supports him more than anyone else in the organization would be gone. An organization, mind you, that seems to be split along philosophical lines at this point.
Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that San Francisco then decides to move on from the embattled signal caller? In fact, some close to the situation have expressed concern about Kaepernick’s long-term future in San Francisco should Harbaugh move on.
Some will look at Kaepernick’s “record” $114 million deal ($61 million guaranteed) and think that I have completely lost my marbles. But remember, the team can release the quarterback at any point without facing a salary cap hit. In reality, it’s a year-to-year deal.
Kaepernick is also set to count $17.3 million against San Francisco’s cap in 2015, which would open the door for a trade here. And while the team would only be $4.2 million under the cap if the offseason started today, it has whole bunch of flexibility. Releasing Ray McDonald saved San Francisco about $2 million next season. In addition to this, it’s highly likely that Ahmad Brooks ($9.7) and Stevie Johnson ($6.0), among others, will be shown the door.
This is obviously a long-shot, and the hope here is that some within San Francisco still possess the confidence in Kaepernick to be the long-term solution. He may have struggled this season, but that could pretty much be said for the entire roster. It’s been a disastrous campaign overall.
5. St. Louis Rams
General manager Les Snead and Co. are in a precarious position right now. Their recent success has put them completely out of the race for Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in the 2015 NFL draft. More than that, the Rams simply don’t have a quarterback on the roster, Sam Bradford included, that has any sort of long-term future with the team.
For his part, Bradford is set to earn $16.6 million next season. That’s obviously not a number the Rams are willing to accept, which indicates the former No. 1 overall pick will be released. That’s also more than enough for the Rams to take on Cutler’s salary without having to dig too deep into what promises to be limited salary cap room.
All salary cap numbers provided by overthecap.com
All individual salary numbers provided by spotrac.com
Photo: CBS Sports