The following item is excerpted from the Week 16 edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:
It seemed implausible during this past offseason that Jay Cutler could remain in Chicago in 2016. Now, the possibility seems more real every day.
The Cutler of 2015 has belied his long-standing reputation: He's been accessible and approachable to teammates, coaches and front-office folks. And he's made a good, positive impression on coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace, often poking his head in to check in on his bosses. In general, he's more outgoing than he's been, and that's in part attributable to having guys around whom he has a background with (offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains).
On the field, two areas of improvement over the course of the season have reflected his commitment best. First, he and Loggains have spent hours upon hours working on eliminating what they call bad turnovers: Mistakes that can be attributed to sloppiness. To that end, Cutler's spent time in drills having bags thrown at him and bodies around him to make sure he keeps the ball tight to his body and that his pocket movement with traffic around him is sound. The upshot: He's eliminated fumbles that aren't a result of bone-crunching or blind-side hits. Second, he's adapted well within the offense to the point where he can now consistently get the unit out of bad situations by changing the play call.
The problem here going forward is that Gase, a prime head-coaching candidate, might not be around next year, and that makes it harder to project what Cutler will be at age 33 in 2016. But there is enough positive here to believe that, even if Gase is gone, it'd make sense to keep Cutler at $16 million next year, when $10 million of that is already fully guaranteed. Decision Day is St. Patrick's Day -- if Cutler's on the roster then, the remaining $6 million of his '16 base becomes guaranteed.