The Cleveland Browns (3-4), waived the white flag on the 2013 season when they traded Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. The Chicago Bears (4-3) appear to be far from waiving the white flag. Are they really? The Bears have even more questions surrounding the roster after this season than the Browns do. We know what the Browns are doing. Does anyone really know where the Bears are headed?
The Bears started the season undefeated. However they have lost 3 of their last 4. The Bears are not a team exactly built for the future, like Seattle(6-1) or San Francisco(5-2). Both teams are built around young quarterbacks Russell Wilson for the Seahawks, and Colin Kaepernick for the 49ers. A big bonus for those teams is that, they are both still on their rookie contracts.
The Bears “core group” is at the end of their careers, especially on defense. They recently lost future hall of famer Brian Urlacher to retirement. Lance Briggs (out at least 6 weeks with a fractured shoulder), Charles Tillman, and Julius Peppers are not far behind. The offense has Jay Cutler (out 4 weeks with a torn groin) at quarterback; he is in the final year of his deal. He can walk at the end of the year through free agency. I’m not sure he will get a lot of interest; starting quarterbacks normally don’t make it to the open market. There is very little upside for a guy that has been in the league 8 years and has been average at best, and is now getting hurt every season. Cutler has all the tools to be an elite QB, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s probably not going to happen with his 3rd NFL team. Don’t forget there are quarterback prospects in the next year’s draft like Teddy Bridgewater (currently projected to be number one overall pick), and Johnny Manziel. They will be cheaper and have a brighter upside than Cutler. Brandon Marshall and Matte Forte are both approaching 30. Marshall is 29, and Forte will be 28 in December. For Forte, it’s especially concerning because the NFL is pretty much is done with running backs over 30. Just ask Michael Turner who is 31 and currently unemployed.
If the Bears struggle for the next 6 weeks and that’s likely with all the injuries. Do the Bears ditch Cutler and what is most certain to be an over paid salary based on his performance. He wants to be paid like a Super Bowl winning quarterback, well then win one. Cutler is one of 27 bears who contracts expire at the end of the season, making it very possible that the bears can start fresh in 2014.
After the 2014 Season Lance Briggs and Brandon Marshall will be the biggest contracts that come off the books. Marshall will be looking for a massive deal. If the bears are starting over they won’t need a veteran like Marshall.
Super Bowl appearances are hard to come by. I see teams that look pretty good for the next couple of seasons. The Bears are not in that group. The Colts, Seahawks, 49ers, Redskins all appear to have promising teams over the next decade. The Steelers, Jets, Chargers, Browns, Raiders, Broncos, and Vikings look to have major questions marks. Where do the Bears fit into the NFL right now? They aren’t rebuilding, but they aren’t exactly a contender for the Super Bowl either. The Bears can opt to start over like the Browns just did and try and land the next Peyton Manning in the draft.
Holes in the roster can be filled with veterans at the end of their career like DJ Williams(out for season), and James Anderson. Both were brought in this season to replace Urlacher. The Bears right now are at a crossroads that will determine the rest of the decade. Do they reinvest in Cutler, who is not an elite quarterback, or start over and try and rebuild like the young teams have done? Rebuilding the defense is coming no matter what. The question becomes do the Bears want to start over with a new quarterback. The answer will come at the end of the season. If the Bears make it to the Super bowl Cutler will be back, if they finish out of the playoffs the tough decisions will have to be made.