What Is Jay Cutler's Trade Value for the Chicago Bears?
Everything you need to know about trades you learned at the lunch tables in elementary school.
When you were slanging your juice box in attempts to upgrade at dessert, you had a bargaining chip. The juice quenched thirst way better than the skim milk the school was peddling, so you could justifiably demand a Nutter Butter in return.
Did your parents pack a Fruit Roll-Up? Congratulations on that bag of chips you're about to land.
But if you've got yourself a half-eaten banana, your behind ain't getting nothing.
Speculation heightening as Bears explore trade options for Jay Cutler https://t.co/rlsVtjDh3f via @danwiederer pic.twitter.com/FGCYdBusVd
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) February 22, 2017
Quarterbacks are a scarce commodity in the NFL, so it makes sense for the Bears to at least attempt to move Cutler following an injury-shortened and ineffective season. But when Cutler -- under his current contract -- would count for $16 million against the salary cap, are they really going to get any bites?
Let's try to check this out from an analytics perspective with the help of numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of teams and players. For Cutler, we'll be focusing on Passing NEP, which shows the expected points a quarterback adds on each drop back throughout the season while deducting for negative outcomes such as incompletions, interceptions, and sacks. If this tells a different tale from Cutler's perception, then maybe you could justify a team paying up and taking on Cutler and the money associated.
The numbers just make that appear highly unlikely.
You don't need advanced analytics to tell you Cutler was awful this year. He finished with 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 137 attempts while Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley pushed out respectable production. NEP almost makes it look worse.
There were 39 quarterbacks who had at least 100 drop backs this season. Of those 39, only three had a worse Passing NEP per drop back than Cutler: Blaine Gabbert, Bryce Petty, and Jared Goff. Hoyer was all the way up in eighth in this metric, and Barkley was 23rd. Maybe calling Cutler a half-eaten banana was generous.
This, admittedly, isn't a great way to judge a guy with a long track record in the NFL, though. The injuries limited Cutler to just 154 drop backs, the lowest total since his rookie season. What happens when we expand the sample?
Looking back to 2015 does paint Cutler in a bit of a better light. Instead of being at the bottom of the barrel, Cutler actually finished that year ranked 15th in Passing NEP per drop back, ahead of guys like Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Derek Carr. If that were the production you'd be getting, then maybe a trade for Cutler isn't as far-fetched as it may seem.
The past two seasons have been largely representative of Cutler's entire career: flashes of quality play mixed in with frustrating incompetence. Is that worth the cap hit on his current contract?
As you all know, though, quarterback play isn't all about that individual player. Offensive line and pass catchers all play a role, too, meaning that it's possible we're penalizing Cutler for a situation that wasn't conducive to success.
We can test that theory by comparing Cutler to other passers who have also donned a Bears uniform over this span. Cutler has missed 18 games in the past four years, giving us a respectable sample on both sides for comparison. Here are their numbers head to head, and oh boy.
|From 2013 to 2016||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Success Rate|
The backups have combined to be a roughly league-average passer; Cutler -- even when we include his decent 2015 -- is below that. This is not a ringing endorsement of his outlook entering his age-34 season.
A big part of that success for the Bears' backups came from Josh McCown in 2013, when he scorched the Earth and earned himself a new deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But even if we take that out and look at just the past three years, the alternatives still had better marks than Cutler.
|From 2014 to 2016||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Success Rate|
Despite playing with the exact same surrounding talent as his backups, Cutler couldn't outperform them. It would seem illogical to think another team would willingly take on his contract and forfeit a draft pick in order to acquire his services.
The Bears aren't getting any help from this year's potential free agent pool. The names available (setting aside Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor, who would have obvious talent advantages over Cutler) include a bunch of players who will be younger and cheaper than Cutler's current deal. They obviously have their red flags as most have limited starting experience, but Cutler's play on the field is also a concern.
When you add in the age and money associated, there are better options, only further depressing a likely dry trade market.
It's right of the Bears to at least make an attempt to move their damaged goods by floating Cutler to other teams. It's just superbly unlikely that they find a willing suitor.
The team can cut Cutler while inheriting just $2 million in dead money, and that seems to be the more realistic scenario. Cutler on the open market would have much more appeal after shedding his bulky deal, and he'd likely be able to find a home then. But when you add up the cost of a draft pick and the money tied to Cutler, it makes almost no sense to bring him on.
This is a bummer for the Bears to receive nothing in return for their former franchise quarterback, but it's the right thing to do. The penalty for releasing Cutler is no longer overbearing, and it will allow them to move on from a rough relationship. Question marks still abound at the position for Chicago, but it's clear the answer does not lie in Cutler's talented and bewildering right arm.