Jay Cutler is not the answer for the Titans or anyone
By HUNTER KOSSODO
College Contributor Network
During this crazy free agency week in the NFL, the situation that will have the biggest implications of any team will be what the Bears choose to do with Jay Cutler.
Chicago seemingly has two options. The first is that it keeps the quarterback it paid like the face of the franchise just 14 short months ago and hopes that Cutler can turn into what the Bears hoped he would be. The other option is to trade him. Cutting Cutler would cost the Bears $19.5 million in dead money with weak choices at quarterback replacements through free agency and a draft pick too late to get Jameis Winston and most likely Marcus Mariota as well.
Whatever the Bears choose to do, they will have to do it by March 12, when $10 million of Cutler's salary for next season is locked in. Given his 10-16 record as a starter the past two seasons, combined with his 39 total turnovers and concerns about his ability to be a "leader of men," the Bears may be interested in trying as hard as they possibly can to push his massive contract onto someone else.
One team in particular has been a popular rumored destination for Cutler since 2013 before he signed his current deal, and they've resurfaced yet again as possible trade partners with the Bears: the Tennessee Titans.
There's tangibles behind this deal that make sense. Cutler starred at Vanderbilt and was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2005. Nashville obviously made an impression on him, as he had his wedding there in 2013. The Titans are in desperate need of a quarterback, and they could do a lot worse than a hometown hero who threw for 28 touchdowns and posted an 88.6 quarterback rating in 15 games last season.
The nice sentiment aside, the Titans should avoid Chicago's phone calls like the plague.
The proposed trade that has been whirling around the rumor mill would be Jay Cutler and Chicago's seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft for Tennessee's second overall pick. This way, the Bears would be able to get whichever QB the Buccaneers don't take with their top selection.
If the Titans are so desperate for a quarterback that they'll trade for one who will be 32 by the start of next season, has led his team to the playoffs once in eight years as a starter, and has six years and $94.2 million in base salary left on his contract, why not just take a quarterback with their second overall pick?
Sure, they'll be better next season with Cutler at the helm over a rookie, but let's be serious here, Cutler isn't going to lead the Titans to the playoffs. With Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and an average offensive line around him, Cutler should have done a whole lot better than 3,800 yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. With the Titans, Cutler will have worse receivers to throw to and a worse offensive line to protect him.
Is it worth throwing away one of the two quarterbacks in this draft with the biggest potential to be a special player for one who's better known for throwing away games rather than winning them?
Instead of blowing cap space to get a quarterback that will lead them to an 8-8 season, the Titans should be focused on improving their defense that was one of the worst in the league in DVOA, according to footballoutsiders.com. If Tennessee doesn't go quarterback with their pick, they could draft former USC pass-rusher Leonard Williams, who might be the best overall player in this draft.
In that case they would have to stick with Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, who as a rookie last season threw for nearly 1,400 yards in six starts and tallied eight touchdowns against six interceptions. The Titans could also make a run at free agent signal-callers like Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett or bring back Jake Locker for one more go-around.
Admittedly those options don't sound very enticing, as Mettenberger had an 0-6 record as a starter last season and the free agents are game-managers at best, but sometimes it's better to test out a cheap stop-gap than break the bank to get marginally better with a quarterback who was the mopey figurehead in the most dysfunctional team in the NFL last season.
Trading Cutler makes sense only for the Bears, which says a lot about the one-time Pro Bowler. It was a head-scratcher when they gave him the seven-year, $126 million deal in January last year, and if the Titans' front office has half a brain between them the Bears will have no choice but to honor the contract.
Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo