Chicago Bears: 4 Options to Back Up Jay Cutler in 2013
In 2011, Jay Cutler went down with a broken thumb after the 10th game of the season and saw his team go from 7-3 to 8-8 to finish the season. Then-backup Caleb Hanie struggled in his four starts, throwing for just 613 yards along with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Prior to the 2012 season, new general manager Phil Emery addressed the backup position, signing veteran Jason Campbell to a one-year deal.
He saw some action against the Houston Texans following a concussion to Cutler and started the following week against the San Francisco 49ers. In that lone start for Campbell, he went 12-of-22 for 107 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions as well as getting sacked six times.
As of now, the only backup quarterback under contract is former undrafted free agent Matt Blanchard, who spent the majority of the 2012 season on the Bears practice squad.
2013 is the final year of Cutler's deal in Chicago, and although it appears that both sides would be interested in getting an extension worked out, Cutler's inability to stay healthy in recent years proves how important his backup is.
Here are four options to backup Jay Cutler in 2013:
Re-Sign Jason Campbell
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Despite not being the most productive when given the opportunity to play in 2012, Campbell affords some continuity amongst the current receiving corps and had prior experience with new head coach Marc Trestman, having been tutored by him prior to the 2005 draft.
If he returns to Chicago in 2013, he will be playing under his 10th offensive coordinator in 13 years (including his time spent at Auburn).
Trestman will likely run a variation of the West Coast offense that emphasizes short, quick passes, which have always been Campbell's strength. Ultimately, the West Coast offense uses the short passes to open up the deep ball, and despite his lack of opportunities to do so last year, he does throw a good deep ball.
The backup quarterback helps work as a liaison at times between the coaching staff and quarterback, and from all indications, Campbell and Cutler had a good working relationship.
Given that the quarterback free-agency market is not very deep in 2013, Campbell may find himself out of the Bears' price range for 2013.
Sign a Veteran Free Agent
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Much like the 2012 free-agency class, the available quarterbacks in 2013 leave little to be desired. The headliner is Joe Flacco, who is currently set to start his first Super Bowl on February 3, but he will likely return to Baltimore for 2013 and beyond.
Journeyman quarterbacks like Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Matt Leinart are set to be available, and if Campbell can be lured elsewhere, they all could be viable options.
Moore had a solid season in 2011, throwing for nearly 2,500 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in just 12 starts and was named the Dolphins' team MVP for the season. The Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill in the first round and Moore spent the season as his backup.
At 28 years old, he is still relatively young and also had prior success in Miami with Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who never seemed to get himself into the same groove with Jason Campbell as he was able to with Jay Cutler.
With such an influx of young talent at the quarterback position in recent seasons, guys like Moore, Anderson, Quinn and Leinart might become available at a price far cheaper than expected.
Draft a Developmental Quarterback
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With far more pressing needs, the Bears likely won't address the quarterback position in the draft until late, if at all.
If Emery and Trestman decide they want to find a quarterback to mold behind Cutler to ultimately use in the future, they could look in the sixth round or, due to not having a seventh-round pick, they could look at an undrafted free agent.
In the later rounds, guys who have a lot of upside but have flaws (poor mechanics, lack of familiarity with pro offenses) can be viewed as developmental guys with the potential to grow into a backup position.
If the Bears opt to go after a quarterback in the later rounds, they will likely still need to sign a veteran as a backup, but guys like Arizona's Matt Scott (who had a strong showing during practice for the Shrine Game) and Washington State's Jeff Tuel have many of the assets that teams look for in developmental quarterbacks and could start in Trestman's offense from the first day, opening up an opportunity down the road to be more than just a backup.
Re-Sign Josh McCown and Continue to Develop Matt Blanchard
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After Cutler's injury in 2011 and the failed Caleb Hanie experience, veteran Josh McCown played well in the final two games of the season, finishing it off with a win against the Minnesota Vikings.
McCown was brought back and spent training camp with the Bears before being cut prior to the start of the season.
He returned in November following a concussion that Cutler suffered against the Houston Texans. He did not take a snap this season, but Cutler went out of his way last season to praise him (h/t ESPN)
There are so many different aspects to what he (McCown) brings to this team, especially for me. He's been in a lot of different situations, and he's been in the league a long time. He's had success, he's had down years and he's just a positive guy. It's a grind-it-out-league, and you need some optimism and some positivity, and he brings that. … If I'm here, I want him here. That's how I feel about it.
Matt Blanchard was signed as an undrafted free agent and was impressive enough in mini camps to get an invite to training camp, and he played well in the preseason in limited action.
He spent some time on the practice squad this season and was signed to a futures contract in early January (h/t ESPN Chicago).
With a new coaching staff, its hard to know what their thoughts are on both McCown and Blanchard, but by bringing both back, it gives them a veteran that Cutler is clearly comfortable with and a quarterback they are willing to develop for the future.