Unless quarterback Jay Cutler is willing to take a club-friendly deal on his next contract, the Chicago Bears are likely to let Cutler become a free agent in the offseason, a source said Wednesday. The Bears would do that even at the risk of losing him.

“(The Bears) believe in (coach Marc) Trestman after what they’ve seen from (backup quarterback Josh) McCown,” the source said. “Between his system and the two big receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery), you have a system where a quarterback can flourish. I don’t know if McCown is going to be the starter (next season), but I think the team would be fine letting Cutler test the market and then go draft someone if he left.”

The goal for the Bears is to not overpay for Cutler, who could be looking for a deal in the range of $20 million a year, particularly if the Bears put the franchise tag on him and then try to negotiate a long-term deal.
Chicago Genera Manager Phil Emery said last week that he was uncomfortable with the idea of using the franchise tag on a quarterback.

“The franchise tag for the quarterback position has unique challenges because the average comes out to be such a big portion of your cap and your total money available to spend on other players to acquire to help your team,” Emery said.

“With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position, to use it and not sign the individual to a long-term deal hurts the team because you lose the ability to prorate the amount of guaranteed salary over the length of the contract. Proration lowers the salary cap number in relation to that player's contract. Obviously the lower the number in relation to the salary cap, the more players you can sign to help your team reach its goals.”

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