Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wants to remain with the team, and wouldn't resist the franchise designation in 2014 if that leads to his return.
In the final season of his contract, Cutler and the Bears shelved extension talks before training camp. General manager Phil Emery repeated several times in the offseason and in August, when he said there would be no deal for Cutler in-season, that the Bears strongly support Cutler and view him as a franchise quarterback.
The going rate for that class of top-tier passers is between $15 million and $20 million per season. If the Bears resist giving the 30-year-old Cutler the type of long-term deal the Packers handed Aaron Rodgers (five years, $110 million) or the Ravens used to retain Joe Flacco (six years, $120.6 million), the franchise tag might be the best option.
"If they want to franchise me, I'm gonna feel good about the situation we're in," he said on ESPN Radio. "We're gonna be in our second year of the offense with these guys. We're gonna be better (and) I'm gonna be better, so it's not personal. It's business."
A record number of quarterbacks could be drafted in the first round if the haul of underclassmen is moved to make the leap. Whether Emery would go to a rookie or seek a veteran -- such as Matt Schaub of the Texans or Sam Bradford of the Rams -- other than Cutler is uncertain.
The franchise marker for quarterbacks is likely to bring a one-year, $16.086 million tender.
Cutler will not play in Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, marking the third straight game he will miss because of a high ankle sprain.
Bears coach Marc Trestman made the announcement Monday, saying Josh McCown will again be the team's starting quarterback this week and that Cutler's status is "week to week."
Trestman does expect Cutler to return before the season is over, however.
"I'm totally confident that he will play again this season," Trestman said.
McCown has played well in Cutler's absence. McCown has a higher completion percentage and higher passer rating and is averaging more yards per pass than Cutler. The Bears have won two of the three games McCown started.
Trestman said Bears linebacker Lance Briggs will also miss the game against the Vikings because of a shoulder injury.