No sign Bears locked into drafting a QB in 2017 as Ryan Pace underscores 'best available' tack

No sign Bears locked into drafting a QB in 2017 as Ryan Pace underscores 'best available' tack

PHOENIX – NFL owners meetings, like the Scouting Combine, invariably involve hallway conversations regarding quarterbacks. Why doesn’t Colin Kaepernick have a job? Why does Mark Sanchez have one? Will Jay Cutler take one? This year, despite a 3-13 record last season and a continuing slide toward irrelevance, the Bears are in intriguing part of those conversations, or maybe, whispers.

The reason, beyond the obvious fact that the Bears stand at No. 3 in a QB-lite draft, is because the Bears not only have done significant things at the position – cutting Cutler, signing Sanchez and Mike Glennon, not signing Brian Hoyer – but one NFL source said to keep an eye on the Bears as potentially being involved in at least one future blockbuster after this season.

More on that in a moment.

First of all, every indication is that GM Ryan Pace is absolutely NOT locked into or about to allow himself to be pressured into drafting a quarterback in 2017. Certainly not at No. 3, maybe not at all. Maybe this is pre-draft posturing, misinformation or misdirection, and Pace has said in the past that he wants to draft quarterbacks but hasn’t in his first two Bears drafts. But still:

“We’re going to draft the best players available, wherever that may be,” Pace said on Tuesday. “And if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. But we’re going to take the best players available. I think now some of those things are unforeseen. You can’t predict some of those things. But right now I like the way Sanchez blends with Glennon and with Connor Shaw.”

Whether the public likes Pace’s moves at quarterback, or whether they’re good, bad or anywhere in between is just offseason speculation for now. The NFL will start giving him meaningful feedback sometime this September. What Pace has in fact done, regardless of analyses at this point, like it or not, is create options for himself and his coaches. And those extend beyond 2017.

Some context here: Even with some measure of job security in the short term, Pace is tasked with winning in the future as well as the present. He has addressed the 2017 quarterback situation, if not spectacularly, with Glennon and Sanchez specifically. But think beyond ’17; because Pace is.

More context: GM’s and head coaches like and need options. Doubts about Glennon, Sanchez, Connor Shaw or some rookie notwithstanding, Pace has the Bears positioned with options, not necessarily good options, but arguably best-available for the most part.

A little more context: Dowell Loggains may not have quelled all doubts about his play calling, but Cutler, Hoyer and Matt Barkley all had their best NFL stretches, albeit short, under his stewardship. 

Pace has effectively positioned the Bears for not one or two, but as many as a half-dozen spins of the quarterback wheel looking for a winner. It is a place the Bears were not in for most of Cutler’s tenure outside of brief Hoyer and Josh McCown bursts.

Within this context, consider the Pace’s chances for a strike at THE priority position for the franchise:

Spin 1: Mike Glennon

Pace announced the former Bucs quarterback as the Bears’ starter. Probably is. But Matt Flynn was the Seahawks’ starter when they free-agent signed him away from Green Bay in 2012. He lost his starting job by the end of training camp to a rookie third-round draft choice, Russell Wilson.

The Bears chose Glennon over Cutler and Hoyer because of upside; if Glennon plays to his perceived ceiling, the Bears have him under contract for two more years.

Spin 2: Mark Sanchez

When all the cynical subsides, consider him a low-risk spin who has been good enough to stand a career 37-35 as a starter. McCown amounted to something and still is after age 30, even with bad teams. Hoyer played some of his best football the past two seasons, after age 30. If Loggains resuscitates Sanchez’s career at age 30… .

Spin 3: The rookie

How, where and even if – make that a big IF – the Bears make their first Ryan Pace draft pick of a quarterback doesn’t come around for another month. But whomever the Bears select, if they select a quarterback this draft, gives Pace another spin of the QB wheel.

Spin 4: Kirk Cousins

CSNChicago.com confirmed that the Bears called on Cousins’ availability, even with the specter of Washington’s franchise tag hanging over him. But as one NFL source noted, Cousins is on a one-year deal ($23.94 million tag guarantee), it is his second and presumably last tag, and he has spurned long-term Washington offers to this point.

Glennon’s contract commits the Bears to $16 million this year. After that, minimal guarantee. Sanchez, one-year deal. Cousins, one-year deal.

Next offseason… . 

Spin 5: Jimmy Garoppolo

The Eastern Illinois quarterback wasn’t deemed worth a No. 3 pick in 2014, in either round one or two. He hasn’t put enough on film to make him worth that pick now.

But if the Cleveland Browns don’t trade for him, or New England hasn’t turned to him and locked him up contractually, he would be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. It will take a long-term market deal but at least he wouldn’t cost a high No. 1.

Spin 6: Connor Shaw

He is already clearly getting a preseason look, as he did last year, and is ahead of evaluations that accompanied David Fales and some other Bears hopefuls. He’s found money if he develops into something, but Warren Moon, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner were all undrafted free agents, too.

Will former Bears QB Jay Cutler find a team to play for in 2017?

Will former Bears QB Jay Cutler find a team to play for in 2017?

PHOENIX – As Jay Cutler left his berth with the Bears, the links of him to myriad other NFL teams immediately began. And have gone nowhere, this despite a league-wide shortage of actual quarterbacks.
 
Not that this carries any import for the Bears, unless he winds up in the NFC North somewhere, but the question would then be: Why?
 
One notion that refuses to disappear around the NFL owners meetings, including thoughts of coaches, is that no one is really sure Cutler even wants to keep playing. If Cutler clearly wanted to continue life as an NFL quarterback, the answers to "does he want to play?" would presumably be variations of a strong "Yes" but those weren't to be had.
 
"I can't answer that. It's a question for him," said Adam Gase, who as Bears offensive coordinator got the best out of Cutler in 2015 before himself leaving to become the head coach the Miami Dolphins. Gase was in touch with Cutler after the quarterback's release by the Bears, texting Cutler and offering him any advice on possible new team situations.

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But Gase didn't offer a job even with incumbent Ryan Tannehill coming off a season-ending ACL injury. "I never brought up anything about coming with us, because I like our situation," Gase said. "I love Jay but I like our situation."
 
The New York Jets considered Cutler, then opted instead to bring in his former backup Josh McCown. The San Francisco 49ers looked at Cutler before signing two of his other backups: Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.
 
Maybe it's money. Cutler was set to make $12.5 million this year in Chicago and teams could be reluctant to offer a fraction of that and risk an attitude problem.
 
But Cutler himself contributed to the vagueness narrative when he was once asked, not that long ago, why he didn't have or seek commercial endorsements. "Starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears" is by definition a high "Q" factor regardless of his personal magnetism or lack of same, but Cutler answered the question that everyone knew pretty much what he made, and that he didn't need the money at the expense of time with his young family.
 
That may be the message teams outside of Chicago are still hearing.

Report: Free agent quarterback Mark Sanchez will meet with Bears

Report: Free agent quarterback Mark Sanchez will meet with Bears

The Bears are fired up about signing Mark Glennon to a three-year deal as their newest starter.

But general manager Ryan Pace is looking for more help behind his newest signal caller, and he may have it in free agent Mark Sanchez.

The 30-year-old Sanchez will visit the Bears on Thursday, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.

Sanchez began last season in Dallas, first backing up Tony Romo and later eventual Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott. He appeared in two games, completing 10 of 18 passes for 93 yards and a pair of interceptions. Prior to that Sanchez spent two seasons in Philadelphia, starting 10 games.

The Bears are in the process of retooling their quarterback position after releasing Jay Cutler in March. Free agents Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley both signed with the 49ers, leaving the cupboard bare.

The Bears hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and could select one of North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson or Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer with the pick.