Now that Phil Emery has filled the Bears' biggest needs with the free agent signings of Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod, the Bears need to invest a high pick in a quarterback in next month's draft.
Phil Emery knows what he is doing. In his short tenure with the Bears he has identified the needs of the team, analyzed the available replacements and aggressively targeted and gotten those players he felt would best solve the team's issue.
He also did the same with the search for Lovie Smith's replacement. He believes that he has found a capable replacement in Marc Trestman.
While that remains to be seen, it also remains to be seen if the Emery/Trestman are ready to hitch their future careers to the Jay Cutler bandwagon. Cutler is entering his fifth season with the Bears and his time here has been marred by inconsistency and bad offenses. He has shown flashes of brilliance and continued to put out clunkers in games that mattered most or when the time was just not right.
Emery has called Cutler a "franchise quarterback," which in today's league is the second-highest compliment that can be paid to a starting QB (after the oft-cited "elite"). However, Trestman has steered clear of that designation, merely complimenting Cutler's skills and playing the "I can't wait to work with him and see what he can do" card.
If Cutler and Trestman don't mesh, a la Martz and Cutler, then you can have a guy to step in and play next season when Cutler inevitably walks.
There is no reason for the Bears to extend Cutler because this season because there are just too many unknowns. How will Cutler do in the new system? Will he get along with the new coaching staff? Has the problem been Cutler's play or his supporting cast?
The only way to get an answer to those burning questions is to let him play it out and see. Emery's moves last week have kicked off, as the Tribune's David Haugh called "Jay Cutler's No Excuses Tour." Cutler is finally out of excuses; no left tackle, no playmakers around him, dead brain coaches, unfriendly systems, etc., etc.
If Cutler comes out, blows the doors off the Bears' record book and leads them deep into the playoffs, then great, write him new paper and back up the Brink's truck.
But if not, there has to be a plan B.
Here is how Dan Pompei put it:
But if Cutler again does not play up to expectations, the Bears will be in a tough spot if they don't have his replacement handy.
They probably will have to overpay — either in trade or financial compensation — to acquire another veteran who wasn't good enough to start on his previous team. And it's not likely they will have a variety of appealing options.
At quarterback, more than any other position, teams want to be dealing from strength.
The Bears can — if they hit on the right rookie.
If the Bears trade down and out of their number 20 first round selection, as Emery has expressed interest in doing, they could pick up a third round pick (which they do not have) or an additional second round selection and with either of those picks choose a QB.
While QBs are still a premium, this year's draft class isn't brimming with once-in-a-generation like last seasons but there are plenty of diamond-in-the-rough candidates like Ryan Nassib, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson, Landry Jones and EJ Manuel.
If Cutler works out, then great. You have your franchise guy. If Cutler and the rookie work out, then even better: The team will have a project guy that a QB guru like Trestman would like, a competent, talented back-up and a potential value in future trades.
Plus, under the new CBA a talented, high draft pick QB will be cheap for at least three seasons. Rookie deals cannot be re-negotiated until after the third season, meaning if the player doesn't work out, then he can be cut loose without hamstringing a team's future, but if he works out he's a tremendous value throughout his rookie deal.
The Bears should keep Cutler's deal in place, make him prove it this year and draft a quarterback in the first three rounds to replace him, if he can't prove it.