Bears shopping Jay Cutler; almost certain to move on

After setting several franchise passing records across eight seasons in Chicago, ’s time with the Bears is nearing its end.

The Bears have been shopping their starting quarterback since mid-January, when they informed Cutler of their intentions, Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.

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Cutler’s base salary for 2017 is just $12.5 million, with another $2.5 million available in roster bonuses. There is no guaranteed money remaining on the seven-year, $126-million contract signed in January of 2014, which means the organization can release Cutler without financial penalty.

It’s no surprise that the Bears are turning the page at quarterback. When general manager and arrived in Chicago two offseason ago, they immediately — and unsuccessfully — shopped Cutler around the league. When backup showed initial promise as an injury fill-in last October, Fox made it clear that he would usurp Cutler’s starting job if he maintained that pace.

Although Cutler went on to reclaim the QB1 spot when Hoyer went down with a season-ending injury, he ended up missing the final six games with a labrum tear that required surgery to his throwing shoulder. Rapoport reported Friday that Cutler is continuing to rehab following surgery and is expected to pass a physical by March.

What is Cutler’s trade value in advance of his age-34 season?

The Bears couldn’t find a taker two years ago. He’s now coming off of the second-lowest passer rating of his career. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since his first year in Chicago, back in 2009. He has been benched for and statistically outplayed by several of his backups. Perhaps most problematic, he has feuded with multiple teammates and coaches.

In other words, the Bears will eventually release Cutler once they find his replacement.

“What is clear,” Rapoport added on NFL Total Access, “is that almost certainly Cutler’s time in Chicago is done.”

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Nike Bears #51 Dick Butkus Navy Blue Throwback Men's Stitched NFL Elite Jersey“He’s one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play, whether they want to not play, retire, walk away,” NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport explained on Wednesday’s edition of NFL Total Access. “A lot of things in play here for Jay Cutler.”

The other veteran quarterbacks Rapoport alluded to are Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo, all of whom have contemplated retirement since the end of the 2016 season.

Palmer has since committed to the Cardinals, while Roethlisberger and Romo are expected to play provided their bodies cooperate and their football situations are to their liking.

This isn’t to suggest that Cutler has one foot out the door as he enters his mid-thirties. It’s simply the new reality of the modern NFL in which established quarterbacks settling into their twilight years adopt a year-to-year approach, taking the time to weigh whether it’s worthwhile to continue playing after setting themselves and their families up for life.

Cutler is working out and getting ready to play in 2017. He’s doing well in his recovery from labrum surgery, per Rapoport, and is expected to be healthy soon.

If Cutler is presented with a starting job on the right team at the right price, he will be under center in Week 1. If his best option is to compete for playing time and guaranteed money in a tailspinning organization, motivation will naturally become a major factor in his decision-making process.