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Chicago Bears must make Jay Cutler decision soon

The Chicago Bears will be forced to make a franchise-altering decision at quarterback next week.

If Jay Cutler remains on the roster for the start of the new league year next Tuesday, $10 million of his salary for the 2016 season becomes fully guaranteed, reports NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

In other words, the new regime would be committing to Cutler for the next two seasons after the last coaching staff opted to bench him for former Panthers draft bust Jimmy Clausen in December. Clausen signed a one-year extension Friday.

It's no wonder coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace have let Cutler twist in the wind the past two months, remaining noncommittal on their quarterback plans.

If the Bears opt to move on from Cutler -- like they did with Friday's trade of Brandon Marshall  --  they must find a taker for his salary or fork over $15.5 million in 2015 guarantees for the right to release him.

To that end, "teams certainly know that Jay Cutler is available," Rapoport reported on Thursday's edition of NFL Total Access.

The Bears are preparing as if Cutler is going to be their starter right now, Rapoport emphasized, but those plans are written in pencil.

Bears fans should know by next Wednesday if Cutler will be directing the offense in 2015. Once the extra $10 million in guarantees kick in, finding a trade partner will become a Herculean task.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the Brandon Marshall trade and plays another game of "Go Get My Lunch." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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