Jay Cutler spent the 2015 season establishing for new coach and front office staffs that he is the right quarterback for the immediate Bears future.
But the Bears will not pass up a quarterback in the 2016 draft if one falls to them, and the way GM Ryan Pace approaches the draft, it may be wrong to assume that the Bears wouldn’t take one if he were the clear best-available when the Bears turn comes at No. 11 of the first round.
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“I think Jay played really well this season,” Pace said. “I was happy with his performance, especially with a lot of injuries to our skilled players. He persevered through that. Jay played well.
“In regards to the draft, and I honestly mean this, it’s always going to be best player available. So if it’s a quarterback, it’s a quarterback. I’ve said before how important that position is and that will continue to be the case.”
The Washington Redskins (Kirk Cousins), Denver Broncos (Brock Osweiler) and Cincinnati Bengals (A.J. McCarron) went into the playoffs behind backup quarterbacks. The Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 first round despite having Brett Favre still near his prime.
The Bears clearly have a priority on upgrading the defense with pass rushers, and those quite often are more easily (and affordably) drafted rather than pursued in free agency. The Bears struck early and forcefully last offseason with a big-money push for rush-linebacker Pernell McPhee but are not expected to make a move of that magnitude this year, perhaps because of perceiving more needs than they have dollars even with a salary cap increase.
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“I really think in free agency, we kind of spread out our resources a little bit,” Pace said. “You kind of limit your risk a little bit when you do that. I think last year, there might've been a little more one-year deals than we would typically do just because I think part of that is, ‘hey, we're just getting here, we want to evaluate our team,’ and these one-year deals give us a little bit of flexibility.
“But I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency. We can be a little more targeted now that we really know our team extremely well. I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free-agency signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread out your resources a little bit.”