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Bears shopping Jay Cutler; almost certain to move on

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After setting several franchise passing records across eight seasons in Chicago, Jay Cutler's time with the Bears is nearing its end.

The Bears have been shopping their starting quarterback since mid-January, when they informed Cutler of their intentions, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday.

Cutler's base salary for 2017 is just $12.5 million, with another $2.5 million available in roster bonuses. There is no guaranteed money remaining on the seven-year, $126-million contract signed in January of 2014, which means the organization can release Cutler without financial penalty.

It's no surprise that the Bears are turning the page at quarterback. When general manager Ryan Pace and John Fox arrived in Chicago two offseason ago, they immediately -- and unsuccessfully -- shopped Cutler around the league. When backup Brian Hoyer showed initial promise as an injury fill-in last October, Fox made it clear that he would usurp Cutler's starting job if he maintained that pace.

Although Cutler went on to reclaim the QB1 spot when Hoyer went down with a season-ending injury, he ended up missing the final six games with a labrum tear that required surgery to his throwing shoulder. Rapoport reported Friday that Cutler is continuing to rehab following surgery and is expected to pass a physical by March.

What is Cutler's trade value in advance of his age-34 season?

The Bears couldn't find a taker two years ago. He's now coming off of the second-lowest passer rating of his career. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since his first year in Chicago, back in 2009. He has been benched for Jimmy Clausen and statistically outplayed by several of his backups. Perhaps most problematic, he has feuded with multiple teammates and coaches.

In other words, the Bears will eventually release Cutler once they find his replacement.

"What is clear," Rapoport added on NFL Total Access, "is that almost certainly Cutler's time in Chicago is done."

If Cutler does reach the open market next month, all eyes will be on a Jets franchise searching for Ryan Fitzpatrick's successor under center.

The team's new quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates, is perhaps the foremost authority on Cutler. The two not only worked together in both Denver and Chicago, but have also maintained a positive relationship, by all accounts.

Would Gang Green attempt to reunite Cutler with Bates as well as former Bears Pro Bowlers Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte?

Stay tuned. March is desperation season in the NFL.

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