The Bears future of quarterback Josh McCown came into further question late Sunday with the Bears re-signing veteran backup Jordan Palmer to a one-year deal ahead of Tuesday's start of free agency.
The Bears want McCown back, and he would like to remain in Chicago. But he is an unrestricted free agent coming off his finest stretch in the NFL, finishing third in the league with a 109.0 passer rating. And prices for even mediocre backup quarterbacks have skyrocketed, with Chad Henne signing in Jacksonville for $8 million over two years and Matt Cassel returning to Minnesota on a two-year deal for $10 million — beyond what the Bears are likely to have in their quarterback budget with Jay Cutler and now Palmer under contract.
Also, in each of the past two seasons, general manager Phil Emery has opted for an opening-day roster with just one veteran behind Cutler and added a second vet in-season only because of injuries to Cutler. Re-signing McCown now would position the Bears for the offseason and preseason with three quarterbacks 30 or older (Palmer turns 30 in May) and effectively put McCown in competition for the No. 2 spot.
The reason the Bears signed Palmer last Oct. 22 and retained him for the year was the pressing concern over injuries to Cutler. That never fully abated, and Palmer remained on the roster through season’s end without appearing in a game.
Even in 2011, Jerry Angelo’s last as general manager, the Bears went with one experienced backup to Cutler (Caleb Hanie) plus rookie Nathan Enderle, re-signing McCown only after Cutler was lost with a fractured thumb.
The Cutler injury problem is expected to be behind them now — which is part of why you sign your quarterback to a contract potentially worth $126 million. But the Palmer re-signing puts a veteran arm in place on the depth chart for a team that only wanted one (Jason Campbell) in 2012 and let McCown go, re-signing him only after a Cutler concussion.
Palmer spent the last nine weeks on the Bears’ active roster but did not appear in a regular-season game. He appeared in two preseason games — including one start — for the Bears last season completing 12-of-18 pass attempts for 116 yards and a touchdown and a 103.0 passer rating.
In his career, Palmer has appeared in four regular-season contests for Cincinnati during his three seasons with the Bengals (2008 through 2010), completing 10-of-15 passing attempts for 49 yards and two interceptions.
Palmer, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, was originally selected by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round (205th overall) in the 2007 NFL draft out of UTEP. Palmer spent part of the 2012 season with Jacksonville but did not appear in a game for the Jaguars.