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Backup quarterback Josh McCown has been surprisingly effective for the Chicago Bears, and that's bad news for soon-to-be free agent Jay Cutler.
In the wake of a series of $100 million+ contracts for guys like Joe Flacco and Tony Romo, Cutler was holding out for a huge payday after his current deal expired in March.
But now there are a number of factors working against Cutler, McCown's emergence chief among them.
There's currently a trend in the NFL where teams are signing above-average QBs to massive deals. We're not talking about guys like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. We're talking about that second tier in which Cutler seems to fit.
Here's a look at how Cutler compares to the three other QBs who got nine-figure deals in recent months:
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He throws more interceptions, he's a little older, and he's not quite as efficient. He might be at the bottom tier of this group, but you could argue his statistical profile looks like that of a $100 million+ QB in this era.
So the Bears will just lock him up, right?
McCown's effectiveness has created the sense that Cutler is expendable. He's 2-0 in his two starts, completing 60% of his passes with 5 TDs and no INTs. Cutler is a notorious interception machine, and the absence of those turnovers alone has been a huge plus.
We're aren't saying that the Bears are going to ditch Cutler and throw McCown in there.
But McCown's success suggests that Cutler's effect on the Bears is overstated. If the difference between McCown and Cutler is proveably negligible, is Cutler really worth $100 million?
As Andrew Brandt pointed out on MMQB today, McCown's emergence could at least make the Bears use the franchise tag on Cutler — that would give him a one-year contract in which the team would have more time to decide whether it wants to invest in Cutler.
If that happens, Cutler will have gone from the long-term, $100 million+ contract he expected to a one-year deal for tens of millions of dollars less.
Cutler is a polarizing player. He can single-handedly lose a game, and then come out and throw 5 TDs on five perfectly thrown balls the next week. He was always question mark as a $100 million quarterback because his flaws were much more obvious than those of his peers.
That fact that McCown is succeeding in his absence will at least give the Bears some hesitation, and that hesitation could be costly.
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