This past season, Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown opened the eyes of many teams with his play on the field when he stepped in for the injured Jay Cutler. McCown finished the year with a 3-2 record as a starter, had a quarterback passer rating of 109.0 and threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception.
With the official start of the NFL offseason on the horizon, the demand for the 34-year-old’s services is on the rise. It has been reported that the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed McCown on their free agency radar.
As important as Cutler is to Chicago’s offense, the presence of a reliable backup quarterback is just as significant. I believe that the Bears must do whatever they can to retain McCown for the 2014 season, including severing ties with defensive end Julius Peppers.
Chicago signed Peppers as a free agent in 2010 to a six-year, $91.5 million deal. Peppers played at a Pro Bowl level his first three seasons in the Windy City but showed signs of slowing down in 2013. The 13-year veteran is slated to make $18.183 million in 2014, which will be a huge hit on the Bears’ salary cap this upcoming season. That vast amount of money isn’t worth the lack of production that Peppers generated last year. This is why it makes perfect sense to release Peppers in order to clear cap space for the re-signing of McCown.
Keeping McCown as Cutler’s backup will definitely give the fans in Chicago a sense of relief knowing that there is a reliable safety net to fall back on if the injury-prone Cutler goes down again in 2014. In the event that McCown leaves Chicago, the Bears will have to more than likely rely on drafting a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft this May.
Even though Cutler, who signed a seven-year, $126.7 million deal on Jan. 2, is cemented as the Bears’ starter under center, developing a rookie quarterback at this time just might hinder the progress of Chicago’s offense.
Looking at what both McCown and Peppers bring to the table, it’s painfully clear that it is worth investing money in a productive quarterback over an aging defensive end in the twilight of his career. Cutting Peppers and re-signing McCown could be more vital than signing any other free agent floating out there and perhaps may be the difference in Chicago turning things around from missing the postseason the past three years.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.