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Bears Won't Cut Cutler

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 12, 2015 4:20PM

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

After weeks of coyly saying that the entire Bears roster was being evaluated, GM Ryan Pace finally gave the controversial quarterback his vote of confidence on Wednesday, stating, "We're moving forward with Jay Cutler as our starting quarterback."

We don't yet know how close the team was to finding a trading partner, nor do we know how seriously the organization considered cutting the quarterback in spite of the $15.5 million owed to him for the 2015 playing season. Yet in keeping Cutler on the roster as of Thursday, another $10 million in guarantees kicks in for 2016 and all but guarantees that he will be under center this year.

The news hasn't exactly come with ringing endorsements. Head coach John Fox said, "I think there’s a talent level there that, obviously, we feel good enough to explore." With nine years of league experience, should a franchise quarterback's talent still require exploration? Though with few alternatives available through trade or free agency, Bears management decided to stick with Cutler while trying to address their numerous other needs.

To that end, the Bears cautiously dipped their toes into the free agency market on Wednesday and signed three players. Shoring up the defense, they added safety Antrel Rolle and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. Rolle, 32, is a three-time Pro Bowler who signed a three-year deal worth $11.25 million with $5 million guaranteed. He joins the Bears after playing five seasons for the Giants.

Coming over from the Baltimore Ravens, McPhee will help the Bears shift to a 3-4 defense. He's expected to play at outside linebacker, but can also play the line if the Bears shift locks on defense. At 26, he's still on the upswing and had a breakout year in 2014 with 7.5 sacks, 24 quarterbacks hits and 11 tackles for loss.

In the wake of the recent Brandon Marshall trade, the Bears also signed Eddie Royal. A proven slot receiver who once played with Cutler in Denver, Royal gained 778 yards on 62 catches and 7 TDs for the San Diego Chargers in 2014—similar to Marshall's production last season. However, while Marshall had an off year due to injuries and off-the-field distractions, Royal had among his best seasons as a pro (his best was his rookie season in 2008 with Cutler as his QB).

Last season, the Bears made a huge early splash in the free agency market, aggressively trying to upgrade their defense. Most of it proved ineffective, so perhaps it's best that the team is taking a more cautious approach this time. However, expect to see more moves in the coming days.