The Bears opted to retain head coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace (and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio) despite a three-win season, which left only two very important questions left on the docket.
Pace went right to work addressing Cutler, telling assembled reporters in Chicago on Wednesday that he had exit meetings with about 30 players, one of them being Cutler. He credited the quarterback with a “freak” ability to overcome injuries (Cutler is rehabbing from what was believed to be a torn labrum, which cost him the final month of the season) and said that his intent was to discuss the eventual decision with Cutler and his agent first.
The Bears can finally move on from Cutler’s massive seven-year, $126.7 million contract that he signed back in 2014 with only a minimal cap hit in 2017.
“There’s a lot of candid conversations that take place and a lot of transparency and honesty,” Pace said. “Some of those things I’d like to keep between us but I think once we make a decision as an organization, whatever it is, he’ll be the first to know. I gave him that promise. But again those decisions haven’t been completely finalized yet, but when they are, he’ll know immediately.”
Pace added that when it comes to finding the Bears‘ future franchise quarterback, “everything is on the table.”
As for someone to throw the ball too — Jeffery — Pace was equally non-revealing, though one might be able to read between the lines here.
“We talked,” Pace said. “He’s an extremely talented player that has high expectations for himself. I don’t think, I feel like this season, he really got into a rhythm that he would’ve liked to have gotten into. I think that was because a lot of different quarterback play and also he missed four games. It’s hard for him to get in a rhythm and I think he showcased what he can do.”
Over and over, Pace stressed that he knew just how important this offseason was to the Chicago Bears — decisions that start with two of the most important and expensive players in recent team history. Chicago’s long-term struggle with injuries, free agency and the quarterback position have made the winter and spring of 2017 a benchmark for the franchise. Should they be able to secure a professional-level quarterback or come to a financially responsible understanding with Cutler, the future will look much brighter. If they are as punchless in the passing game as they were a year ago, next year’s end-of-season press conference may not feature the same guests.