Aug 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (left) throws as the grounds crew removes the tarp from the field prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
There really isn't much of a battle here. The Bears have 4 guys in camp at the quarterback position and the pecking order is clear cut. Jay Cutler is the franchise QB, followed by Jason Campbell and his 70 career starts. Number three is last years back up Josh McCown, and the guy fighting for snaps is rookie undrafted free agent Matt Blanchard from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
While the pecking order is set, there's still some questions surrounding the last two guys. A question posed by fellow WCG writer T.J. Shouse is the first thing that needs to be determined; Should the Bears keep three quarterbacks on the roster? That poll showed our readers to be fairly split on the topic, but we've still got a few weeks before the Bears will make that call.
Carrying only 2 QBs isn't unprecedented, the Bears did it in Cutler's first year in Chicago, but it is rare. With Chicago QB depth issues still fresh in the coaches minds, I think they carry three on the 53 man roster. Between McCown and Blanchard the better NFL QB at this point is clearly McCown, but that may not be enough for him to stick around as number 3.
The Bears would love to have a young guy that they can develop and have around for years, and stashing Blanchard on the practice squad would be ideal, but could they get him there? If the Bears elect to keep McCown they would have to expose Blanchard to the other 31 teams via the waiver wire. If he makes it through, they could then add him to the practice squad. If he's claimed it's bye bye Blanchard.
A lot will be determined in the preseason games, because just as the Bears are evaluating his play, so are the other teams. If Blanchard plays well, he could be a hot commodity for some other QB hungry team. If he looks good another team could elect to put him on their 53 man roster. Then the Bears would be left looking elsewhere.
Option number two is of course keeping Blanchard as the #3, but then they risk having the rookie play in a meaningful game. Last year the Bears were forced to sign Josh McCown off the street rather than have rookie Nathan Enderle take meaningful snaps. I think McCown will have enough recent and relatively good play on film to catch on immediately if he were cut.
If the Bears truly believe in Blanchard, he might make the team. Then again they may want to limit his preseason passing opportunities so they can keep him a secret, and see him slip through the wire so he can end up on the practice squad.
It's a tough decision for the Bears to make, but it'll add some intrigue to the QB position the next few weeks.