With the injured Cutler entering free agency, many have speculated that if the Bears don't want to commit a huge contract to the 30-year-old, the team might use the franchise tag to keep him one more year while identifying a young developmental quarterback.
However, general manager Phil Emery doesn't sound too keen on the possibility.
"With the franchise tag being so high for the quarterback position," Emery wrote during a fan Q&A on the team's official website, "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."
The Bears have a boatload of decisions to make this offseason, with veteran defenders Henry Melton and Charles Tillman also entering free agency. It's clear from Emery's comments that he doesn't plan on tying up a ton of cap space on a one-year tag as he tries to remake a brutal, aging defense on the fly.
Last week, Cutler said he was open to the franchise tag, which NFL Media's Albert Breer projected at $16.2 million for quarterbacks in 2014. Emery reiterated no contract talks would begin until after the season.
Potentially taking the tag off the table could also be posturing by Emery to get Cutler to lower his long-term contract demands.
The Bears currently are projected to have a mid-round selection in a quarterback-heavy 2014 NFL Draft. We could be looking at a situation where Chicago's brass identifies a young signal-caller of the future and re-signs McCown (also a free agent) as a cheaper stopgap.
It's rare that a quarterback with Cutler's talents hits the open market, especially considering how good he looked in Marc Trestman's offense early this season. Allowing Cutler to walk would speak to the Bears' confidence in their quarterback whisperer.