"(He's) one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play, whether they want to not play, retire, walk away," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said Wednesday on NFL Total Access. "A lot of things in play here for Jay Cutler."
Cutler, who turns 34 in April, has played 11 NFL seasons. The last eight of those have been in Chicago, where he emerged as a darling franchise quarterback before falling out of favor. The Bears are planning to release Cutler if they do not find a trade partner, according to Rapoport.
Financially, Cutler would likely prefer a trade if he wants to continue playing. His contract calls for a $12.5 million base salary in 2017, something he's unlikely to see if he hits the open market. It's possible Cutler's new team would look to restructure his deal, but it'd be beneficial to keep the long-term commitment to a minimum.
Cutler was limited to five games in 2016, during which he was one of the NFL's worst starting quarterbacks. He threw for 1,059 yards and four touchdowns against five interceptions, also fumbling a handful of times. Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer, Cutler's backups, each threw for more yards.
More concerning—and perhaps the reason Cutler may look to retire—was his run of injuries last season. A thumb injury cost Cutler five weeks early in the season, and then he suffered a tear in his throwing shoulder that led to his placement on injured reserve. Cutler also took 17 sacks, seven more than Hoyer and Barkley combined.
Offensive line issues have been a problem since Cutler's arrival in Chicago. He has not played in all 16 games in a season since 2009 and is a semi-regular on the injury report.
"The one thing about Jay is, as far as his rehab from injuries he's almost a freak in regards to recovering from injuries fast," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said of Cutler's recovery, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. "So he's significantly ahead of schedule. He's rehabbing hard and that's encouraging."
Cutler will need to be medically cleared before he can be traded.