Each week, SNY will put a current player, a position, or perhaps a draft or free agent target of the Jets in the spotlight as part of our regular offseason coverage. This week we begin with one of the potential quarterback options for the Jets -- and one with ties to their brand new quarterbacks coach:
QB Jay Cutler.
The Jets, a team without a quarterback and desperate to find or develop one, just hired a quarterbacks coach with little experience, with few jobs that lasted longer than one year, and who has spent the last four years out of football. But he does have one success story on his resume that has raised some eyebrows around the league.
What Jeremy Bates is known for -- perhaps the only thing he's known for -- is his work with the erratic and often-controversial Jay Cutler, who is currently the quarterback for the Chicago Bears (though not likely for long). Bates worked with Cutler for three seasons in Denver (2006-08) and one more in Chicago (2012).
Could a reunion be in the works in New York?
Probably not, even though the idea is intriguing. Cutler's best NFL season was probably 2008 in Denver with Bates by his side, when he completed 62.3 percent of his passes for a career-high 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. It was Cutler's third year in the NFL and he was thought to be a rising star, especially if his strong-but-erratic young arm could be harnessed.
But after the 2008 season, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and his staff (including Bates) were fired and Cutler's relationship with new coach Josh McDaniels got off to a terrible start when word got out that McDaniels tried to trade for New England's Matt Cassel. Cutler demanded a trade and was sent to Chicago for Kyle Orton and two first-round draft picks and his career was never quite the same.
That, of course, was nine years ago. Cutler now is about to turn 34 years old and is coming off shoulder surgery and a season in which he played only five games. He has four years left on a seven-year, $126.7 million contract and is due a salary of $12.5 million this season (plus $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses). That's a lot, but there's no guaranteed money left on his contract. That means the Bears could release him and clear about $14 million off their salary cap.
If the Jets had any interest in him, a trade wouldn't make sense since his cap number for this season is $16 million (or $15 million for the team that acquires him) and the Jets aren't going to have a ton of cap room. Signing him as a free agent would make more sense, figuring his market might be thin and his price might be reasonable. He also might be willing to play on a prove-your-worth, short-term, Ryan Fitzpatrick-like deal.
But why would the Jets want to go that route again, when it's part of why they're in their current, quarterback-less mess? Granted, there were reasons they had to do it -- like their 10-6 record in 2015 -- but bringing Fitzpatrick back last season instead of working to develop a young quarterback-of-the-future clearly set them back. Going with a past-his-prime, older, questionable quarterback as a one-year fix would do the same thing again.
And the Jets seem to know it. It's not yet clear whether they're going to find their quarterback of the future through the draft, through free agency, or if they're intent on committing to last year's second-round pick, Christian Hackenberg. But according to a team source, if they go through free agency, Mike Glennon is high up on their list. That makes sense, since he's 27 and his best football might be in front of him. A guy like Tyrod Taylor, the 27-year-old who could be available if the Bills don't choose to pick up what is essentially a $30 million option in his contract due by March 11, would make more sense, too.
Unless someone above head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan steps in and orders a Brett Favre-like signing, all indications are that the Jets intend to look for a young quarterback, not a grizzled veteran (and if they go the grizzled veteran route, Tony Romo would be a lot more attractive than Cutler). They know they need to find a quarterback not just for 2017, but one who can lead them into the 2020s -- otherwise neither Maccagnan nor Bowles are likely to have their jobs that long.
So Cutler is an interesting name with an intriguing arm that many people felt over the years that they could harness -- and his relationship with Bates sure makes this an interesting topic. If this were five years ago or so, maybe it would make a lot more sense. But not now.
The Jets need to think long-term. They need to shoot for someone better. And they can do a lot better than Jay Cutler in the waning years of his middling career.