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Jay Cutler is about to be someone else's problem

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The Bears are looking for trade partners, and are likely to release Cutler if nothing materializes.

Washington Redskins v Chicago Bears Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears have been trying, without success, to find a trade partner for quarterback Jay Cutler since January, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. If nothing materializes, the Bears are likely to release the veteran quarterback.

Cutler played in just five games for the Bears last season as he fought through myriad injuries, including a torn labrum that sidelined him for the last six games of the season. When he was healthy enough to be on the field, he completed just 59.1 percent of his passes and threw four touchdowns against five interceptions.

There are plenty of teams in the NFL that should find a veteran quarterback appealing, but with Tony Romo’s impending release from the Dallas Cowboys and Washington’s Kirk Cousins potentially hitting free agency (or being available for trade), teams have options. If a trade doesn’t happen, the Bears can move on from Cutler without much financial penalty.

Cutler still has four years remaining on a seven-year, $126.7 million contract that carried $54 million in guaranteed money. However, the contract was structured to pay out the guaranteed money up front. If the Bears release Cutler, they’re just on the hook for $2 million in dead money.

If the Bears hold on to Cutler, which is unlikely, he is set to earn $16 million in 2017.

The Bears began exploring potential trade scenarios involving Cutler when John Fox first arrived in Chicago, to no avail. He missed most of 2016 with a shoulder injury, and when he was on the field, he struggled. His performance doesn’t seem like an outlier either. Cutler played so poorly during the 2014 season that then-head coach Marc Trestman benched him for Jimmy Clausen.

Cutler quietly had a solid season in 2015, starting 15 games for the Bears and finishing with 3,659 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions. If a change of scenery and a new environment can help Cutler get back to that level of performance, he could be an asset elsewhere.

The San Francisco 49ers are one potential landing spot for Cutler. New head coach Kyle Shanahan has brought the best out of players like Brian Hoyer, Cutler’s backup in Chicago, and Matt Schaub in the past. The Niners have a number of needs on both sides of the ball, so bringing in the veteran signal caller could open things up for San Francisco to address some other deficiencies through the draft.

The New York Jets are another possibility. As NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling notes, the Jets hired quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who has coached Cutler with the Denver Broncos and the Bears. Bates and Cutler have a good relationship and a reunion could be productive for both of them, as well as the Jets. Cutler could reunite with former Chicago teammates Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte in New York, also.

We can effectively rule out one destination for Cutler. Carson Palmer has confirmed he will return for another season, and Cutler is not on the Cardinals’ radar.

It’s almost a certainty that Cutler will start the 2017 season with a new team. If he can stay healthy, a change of scenery may do him good.