I’ve posted many times here on how overvalued Jay Cutler has been and now according to Adam Scheffter of ESPN he has been benched for his poor play.
Stunner from Chicago: Bears starting QB Jimmy Clausen this week, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2014
The move marks yet another chapter in the Cutler contract saga that has been heavily debated since it was signed last year. It was a contract that came under a great deal of scrutiny due to the high guarantees given to someone who at best could be described as inconsistent but talented. The questions really should have started long before the deal was ever signed as the Bears somewhat dragged their feet on the deal possibly costing millions in the process.
The Bears had all of 2013 to work out contract with Cutler. Had they signed him to an extension that year they could have guaranteed his $8.47 million salary, which was already virtually guaranteed since he was going to be their starter. Rather than taking a proactive approach they waited out the 2013 season one in which some argued he was outplayed by Josh McCown. Cutler missed 5 games that year and what Cutler did in those 11 games to take the question marks out of the process is a mystery. It seemed logical that Chicago would use the $16.2 million franchise tag to protect their long term security but instead they rapidly signed him to a contract in January that would pay him $22.5 million in 2014 and guarantee him another $15.5 million in 2015.
Now the decision for the Bears becomes what to do with Cutler and his massive contract. Their best option is to try to find a team willing to take a chance on Cutler. His salary in 2015 is $15.5 million which is probaby low enough for team to take a gamble on him, but the problem is that a team trading for him would also assume what is likely to be $16 million in guarantees in 2016 as well. For a player who has been a 3rd tier performer and is often injured that may be too much risk.
Trading Cutler leaves the Bears with just a $4 million dead money hit on their salary cap and would create $12.5 million in cap space in 2015. Cutler’s contract contains dead money because the Bears converted a portion of his base salary to a signing bonus to aid them in signing Jared Allen. If he remains in Chicago he will carry a $16.5 million cap hit in 2015 and $17 million cap hit in 2016. The 2016 number would be completely wiped from the books.
Cutting Cutler is not really an option. If they release him the Bears will still need to pay him $15.5 million. In addition his bonus money would accelerate, leaving Chicago with a $19.5 million cap charge. That cap charge would result in a loss of $3 million in cap room. If they were to consider it they would need to release him in early March. On the 3rd day of the 2015 League Year $10 million of Cutler’s $16 million salary in 2016 becomes fully guaranteed.
The most realistic option might be a common ground trade settlement where the Bears would either pay a portion of Cutlers contract to allievate the burden of guarantees in the contract to the acquiring team or agree to take on a bad contract in return. Such a scenario paints the best financial situation for any team involved.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.