Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has suggested that he does not plan on placing the franchise tag on Jay Cutler, ramping up speculation that the veteran quarterback could be playing his last season in Chicago, according to NFL.com.
With the 30-year-old Cutler's contract expiring at the conclussion of 2013, some have suggested the Bears would tag him in order to keep a viable passer on hand while they groom a quarterback of the future.
But during a fan Q&A on the team's official website, Emery appeared adamantly opposed to the tag:
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.
NFL media's Albert Breer has projected the 2014 quarterback franchise tag to be worth $16.2 million, money the team could otherwise spend to revamp its aging defense.
Cutler, who suggested last week he was open to being tagged, has played in just eight of 12 games this season, and has missed the last three with a severe high ankle sprain. Backup Josh McCown has played well in his absence, going 3-2 as a starter and posting a passer rating of 103.6, which currently ranks as the second-best in Bears single-season history.
Some believe McCown's success has made Cutler expendable. With a quarterback-heavy draft class approaching in 2014, the Bears may decide to select a franchise quarterback next August and use McCown to bridge the gap.