The Chicago Bears are borrowing the 2012 Baltimore Ravens' approach to their quarterback's expiring contract. The organization reportedly cut off contract talks with Jay Cutler once Marc Trestman was hired as coach in January.
Joe Flacco ended up making the Ravens pay through the nose after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. One NFL salary cap manager believes Cutler is guaranteed to match Flacco's salary next offseason whether or not the Bears commit to a long-term extension.
"Jay Cutler is going to eventually get $20 million no matter how much he deserves it," the cap manager told ESPN.com's Mike Sando. "I think there will be a team desperate for a quarterback who doesn't like the quarterbacks in the draft. Maybe they think they're close and the GM says Jay Cutler is no different from Joe Flacco, that you can win a championship with him. It just takes one of 32 teams to make that judgment, and I think there's a good chance someone will. Cutler can still be pretty darn good."
In addition to the contract-year gamble, there are two obvious similarities between Cutler and Flacco. Any conversation about the strongest arm in the league starts with the two of them, along with Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.
Freed from the shackles of Cam Cameron's predictable offense, Flacco turned in a 15-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 106.8 passer rating under Jim Caldwell down the stretch. After toiling under the unimaginative combo of Lovie Smith and Mike Tice last season, Cutler now has the benefit of one of football's brightest offensive minds in Trestman.
Unlike the 2012 version of Flacco, however, Cutler has never experienced postseason success. Questions remain about his coachability, mechanics, decision-making and leadership. At age 30, his perceived value is still based more on potential than results.
If Cutler breaks out under Trestman, the Bears will keep him via the franchise tag or a mega contract. Even if the quarterback stumbles this season, all it takes is one desperate team to overpay, believing they have the coaching staff that finally can flip the light on Cutler's career.