While the focus is on the quarterback, as always, the Chicago Bears already know that Jay Cutler is not their QB of the future. That ship has already sailed. Cutler, “The Most Average QB of All-Time,” is the subject of trade rumors and may just get outright released, but it’s also not that simple; despite his ridiculous $126.7 million deal (still the biggest in the NFL), he’s only making $14.28 million in 2017. There are currently 20 quarterbacks set to make more than that next season, so the average QB is actually on a below-average salary next year, so it may be wiser to keep him, or trade him, than release him.
Also, who cares? He’s not the future for he Bears, but some of these other impending free agents could still be that. That’s where they really need to focus their attention, while also still acknowledging that through free agency, trade, or draft, they need to find their actual QBOTF.
Impending Free Agents
Alshon Jeffery, WR
Jeffery made $14.6 million on the franchise tag last season, making him the fourth-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, but he certainly didn’t produce at that level. Having to play with three different quarterbacks at roughly equal amounts, Jeffery caught 52 passes for 821 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Over the last two seasons, he’s now caught six touchdowns in 21 games.
That being said, he only just turned 27 and from 2013-2014 he caught 17 touchdowns and averaged almost 80 yards per game. Jeffery won’t be entering the market on a high note, but he’d definitely get a $70 million deal on par with Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, and Demaryius Thomas anyway.
If tagged, the Bears would have had to give him a raise to around $17-$18 million next season, more than any other wide receiver. But as reported on Monday morning, they apparently are not going to do that.
#Bears are not expected to franchise Alshon Jeffery again at > $17M, sources say. A top WR on the market will generate lots of buzz in Indy— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2017
They recently spent a high pick on receiver Kevin White, though in two seasons he’s played in only four forgettable games. If they can’t sign Jeffery long-term, the team must rely on White and Cameron Meredith to be their only receiving weapons of note, barring whoever they bring in. Keep Jeffery, and the trio (along with Jordan Howard) becomes a very interesting set of weapons for the next generation of Chicago QB.
It may be in the Bears’ best interest to give Jeffery the large contract he desires (he also seems to want to stay in Chicago as he predicted after the season that the Bears would win the Super Bowl next year) knowing that they have plenty of cap space anyway. That being said, I’m also usually against mega-contracts for non-QBs, in general. I don’t put him on the Julio level, though he’s close to the Demaryius level.
If Jeffery hits the market, I don’t think he returns to Chicago. I also don’t think he’d be coming to Seattle, for obvious reasons. This is the Bears one huge priority. Despite having a lot of free agents, and Cutler to deal with, none really made much of an impact or seem to have a significant future with this team.
That’s a big reason why they went 3-13.
Marquess Wilson, WR
Just because he’s a former Washington State player, it’s worth noting the inevitable availability of Wilson. He’s had a few nice moments, and actually is averaging 16.9 yards per catch over his last 14 games on 37 catches, but he can’t stay healthy or remain consistently productive. He could be a good low-key signing for someone.
Johnthan Banks, CB
The Bucs secondary was supposed to be next-level in 2013 after they traded for Darrelle Revis, signed Dashon Goldson, and drafted Banks in the second round (also Mark Barron was going into his second season), but obviously none of those moves worked out. At all.
Revis was released after one season. Goldson after two. Barron was traded in 2014. And finally Banks was traded to the Detroit Lions last season for a seventh round pick. Banks was released and signed to play in two games with the Bears. He now hits the free agent market having lost his job as a starter in Tampa two years ago and being discarded by the Lions.
At one point, Banks was a first round talent, but he ran a 4.59 at the combine and fell to the second. That being said, he still checks the boxes for a lot of things the Seahawks look for in a corner: Nearly 34” arms, a 34.5” vert, and a 10’6 broad jump. It seems like he’ll cost next-to-nothing and I would think Banks and his agent could see the value in trying things out in Seattle, if they are interested. I’m not opposed to them being interested, due to the fact that he’s playing on borrowed time at this point.
Others: K Connor Barth, QB Brian Hoyer, QB Matt Barkley, TE Logan Paulson, C Ted Larsen, DT C.J. Wilson, LB Sam Acho, S Chris Prosinski, CB Brandon Boykin, RT Mike Adams, WR Deonte Thompson, RT Nick Becton, DE Cornelius Washington, RT Matt McCants
Potential Cap Casualties
Jay Cutler, QB
The Bears would save $12.2 million by getting rid of Cutler, but also they have $52.3 million in cap space already per OvetheCap.com. I suspect they will trade or release Cutler but if they don’t feel they have a good veteran option in place, they may just leave him there and allow him to make the starts while a rookie waits his turn. If they re-sign Hoyer, or even Barkley, that may be enough for Chicago to convince themselves to part ways with Cutler. My guess so far has been that he’ll go to the San Francisco 49ers.
Pernell McPhee, OLB/DE
Save $6.32 million if released. Always a solid player, McPhee had almost no impact last season, missing seven games and making 16 tackles with four sacks. They’re probably not in a hurry to get rid of McPhee, they don’t need the money that bad, but is he playing like a pass rusher worthy of almost $8 million? I’m sure the Seahawks would have some interest.
Lamarr Houston, LB/DL
Same line of thinking. Houston will make $6.9 million next season, Chicago would save $5 million if he’s released, and he missed 14 games last year. He could be one of their best defensive players but he’s going to be 30 next season and he’s missed a lot of time in the last three seasons.
Eddie Royal, WR
As good as gone. The Bears will save $5 million and have no dead money if they release Royal. I’m stunned he’s lasted in the NFL this long after his dud sophomore campaign with the Denver Broncos in 2009.
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