What will it cost to keep Jay Cutler? 

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
10:30
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CutlerAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bears are in a bind, knowing both Jay Cutler's limitations and their own without a good QB.

It's been a rough week or for NFL quarterbacks with lots at stake on the contract front:

Josh Freeman lost his starting job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sam Bradford took five sacks in the St. Louis Rams' third consecutive defeat.
• For the fifth time in his Chicago Bears career, Jay Cutler committed at least four turnovers in the same game. Since 2009, only Freeman and Mark Sanchez have as many games with four-plus turnovers.

Freeman can only hope for a trade or release. Bradford is signed through 2015 and the Rams seem committed to him in part due to the money they've paid him based on the rules of the previous CBA. Cutler, without a contract for 2014, is the veteran quarterback to watch over the remaining 12 games of this regular season. He trailed only Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in Total QBR through the Bears' 3-0 start to the season. But then came Cutler's three-INT, one-lost-fumble meltdown Sunday during a 40-32 road defeat to the Detroit Lions -- a reminder, perhaps, that fresh coaching and an improved offensive line have their limits.

So what will Cutler be worth? And should the Bears be willing to beat any offer to keep him? With help from coaches, a pro personnel director and a veteran NFL contract negotiator, I set out this week to more clearly define where Cutler is headed, not just on the field but also as the Bears' franchise quarterback.