No time to talk Cutler's contract

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No time to talk Cutler's contract

It's really not an appropriate time to be talking about hometown-discount contracts if you're Jay Cutler.

It all sounds upbeat coming from Cutler, who appeared on WMVP last week saying, "I'm not going to try to break the bank," when discussing a future signing, but his future with the Bears is very uncertain. It becomes even more uncertain if he continues to get injured on avoidable hits and cannot remain on the field throughout the duration of a game.

The Bears' quarterback has dispelled any stupidity from the media peanut gallery or fellow NFL brethren that he is not a tough quarterback. The 2010 NFC title game got the ball rolling about Cutler "packing it in" when he suffered an MCL sprain. He was unable to finish the game due to the significant injury, but was broadcasted standing on the sideline watching his Super Bowl dreams go down the drain.

Now over 100 sustained sacks later and numerous his accumulated, it's not just a knee that has affected Cutler. He's since suffered a broken handthumb, bruised ribs, a well-documented concussion history and now a neck injury from this past weekend against Minnesota, which forced him to leave the game.

Head injuries, in my opinion, are the new kiss of death on NFL careers. Organizations have already adjusted by completely removing players from their draft boards who have sustained significant documented head trauma coming out of college.

Cutler is a fantastic player who will soon turn 30 years old and coming into the prime of his NFL career. But in reality, why would the Bears pay Cutler a huge bonus and contract when he has one year currently remaining at 8.47 million if he can't stay on the field?

Ownership is not stupid in the NFL. There are quarterbacks who have been drafted under the new collective bargaining agreement who are winning and come at a much cheaper price than a new 100 million contract that Cutler certainly could command.

Here are a few examples: Andrew Luck (first round, Indianapolis), Robert Griffin III (first round, Washington), Andy Dalton (second round, Cincinnati), Colin Kaepernick (second round, San Francisco) and Russell Wilson (third round, Seattle).

Under the new CBA, these quarterbacks can't even renegotiate before the end of their third season.

For example, Cam Newton was the first quarterback to sign under the new CBA. He was the first overall selection of the 2011 draft whose contract was inked, a 4-year, 22 million deal. Newton cannot even approach the Panthers to renegotiate until the end of 2013.

The Bears are not in any rush to secure a new contract with Cutler. There is plenty for him to prove the rest of the season and next before any offers are on the table. Unfortunately for Cutler, his health status has now become a question mark. His injury file continues to grow, which is never a good thing especially when documented concussions are on it.

Cutler has shown his play can be tremendous when he's on the field. Whether the Bears could have beaten Minnesota if Cutler remained in the game is left to the imagination. After all, he brought them back a week ago against Seattle to force overtime with one throw.

But costly throws -- like the one to Vikings' safety Harrison Smith that was returned for a touchdown -- leave room for Bears' management to take a collective pause along with the growing injury history.

Sure, the Bears may still want Jay at the end of 2013, and it may be for the hometown discount, but it may also be for all the wrong reasons Cutler envisioned. It's going to be interesting how this plays out if the injuries continue to mount.

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox, Cubs both drop series openers

Here are some of Monday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Preview: Cubs look to bounce back vs. Giants tonight on CSN

White Sox fall to Diamondbacks in series opener

Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

How Bears are using veteran videos to school rookies on NFL way

Luis Robert the latest high-end acquisition for White Sox

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Carlos Rodon 'getting closer' but still without time frame for return

Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?

MMQB's Peter King's thoughts on Trubisky, Howard, White and the Bears offense

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”