Will Cutler's 31st birthday be spent as a Bear?

Will Cutler's 31st birthday be spent as a Bear?
April 29, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Many Bears fans may have hoped general manager Phil Emery might prioritize getting a so-called "quarterback of the future" in last weekend's draft. It made too much sense.

If Jay Cutler -- heading into a contract year as he turns 30 on Monday -- couldn't embrace the coaching of Marc Trestman and make the necessary fundamental repairs that would elevate him into the status his physical ability screams, it would seem the new head coach needed a reliable checkdown on the depth chart. Problem was, it wasn't a strong class for quarterbacks, and the remaining pickings are slim in the current free agency pool. That's too bad, given the history the "quarterback whisperer" has had, with the potential of molding a fresh talent straight out of college.

Emery had to set his priorities in the draft and free agency. Rarely can teams satisfy every need, every during the offseason. Cutler was a given for 2013. Other issues needed addressing with the picks he had and the salary cap space he had to work with. If he was thinking of targeting a signal-caller in Round 4, a run on them before the Bears' turn came up and closed that door.

[MORE: Anatomy of a "run": QB blitz leaves Bears out in 4th round]

What the off-season has created is an interesting competition in Bourbonnais in who'll keep Cutler upright this fall. The offensive line has become a mosh pit that should make it one of the club's strengths. But behind that line, Josh McCown is No. 2 with Matt Blanchard behind him. If Cutler misses any significant time this fall, that wouldn't seem to bode well. Then again, perhaps Trestman can take them to new levels no one else ever has.

If you're looking for free agent veteran help now, the pickings are slim. And that's being kind. It's Vince Young and Charlie Batch. It's Byron Leftwich, Tyler Thigpen, Trent Edwards, JaMarcus Russell, and Matt Leinart. Let's hope "The Tebow Show" doesn't roll through town after being released by the Jets Monday morning.

That's put the Bears behind the proverbial "8 ball" with Cutler, depending on how he accepts Trestman's direction, his level of success, and what they can pursue if it doesn't all work out this season.

[RELATED: QB freeze-out: A statement on Cutler?]

Joining Cutler right now as free agents next offseason will be Matt Ryan (with whom Emery has a history in Atlanta, but the Falcons are trying to lock up), Matt Cassel (whom Emery has a history with in Kansas City but is now a Vikings backup to Christian Ponder), and Josh Freeman, who, like Cutler, is entering a "crossroads" season for Tampa Bay. It's interesting that the Buccaneers did draft Mike Glennon last weekend.

By not getting their paws on someone last weekend whom they can develop, it creates even greater contract leverage for Cutler. The Bears would be willing to give him his payday if he delivers what they need. If he doesn't, the franchise would be back to square one a year from now -- at the position where Cutler seemed to be the answer when they acquired him four years ago.