Veteran Josh McCown remains a staunch supporter of former teammate Jay Cutler, whose time in Chicago is drawing to a close after an eight-year run.
"I still believe he can play at a very high level," McCown said on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Ross Tucker and Greg McElroy.
McCown, 37, has unique insight into the mind of Cutler. The two enjoy a close friendship going back to when McCown played for the Chicago Bears in 2011 and 2013.
McCown -- who passed for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception in '13 -- left Chicago for Tampa the following season, but the quarterbacks stayed in contact.
McCown -- a free agent -- is convinced a market exists for Cutler, who turns 34 in April. The Bears are likely to release Cutler if they cannot find a trade partner. There is no guaranteed money left on Cutler’s deal, and the Bears open up $13 million in salary-cap space with him off the roster.
Cutler played in just five games in 2016, passing for four touchdowns and five interceptions. The embattled quarterback has tossed 109 interceptions since joining the Bears in 2009.
"He had a rough one this year dealing with injuries," McCown said. "But as we’ve said for a long time -- the skill set is there. With a quarterback-driven league, and often a quarterback-needy league, you have to think there will be opportunities (for him). It’s just finding the right one he feels matches his skill set. Finding the right people. And if he wants to continue playing.
"I know he’ll make the best decision he can for him and his family. I root for him either way it goes. As a friend, and a football fan, and as a guy who appreciates quarterbacks, I hope he continues to play and finds a good spot where he can play good football. Because I believe that is still in his future."
McCown, however, is unsure about Cutler's willingness to accept a backup role. Except for one brief week late in 2014 when ex-Bears head coach Marc Trestman benched Cutler for Jimmy Clausen, Cutler has been the unquestioned starter his entire career. Cutler has appeared in 139 games since 2006 -- starting all of them.
"I don’t know [if he’d be a backup]," McCown said. "I haven’t really talked to him about that. If I had, I’d keep that between us. But every guy, especially guys who have played a long time as starters as he has -- it’s not an easy transition for several reasons. You’re stimulated by the process of being the guy, getting the reps, and a financial component where you go, 'I don’t necessarily have to be backup.' All things considered, that is a hard transition for a lot of guys."
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