In our daily countdown to training camp, we'll cover all the positions, one day at a time. Why not start with what will be the most watched position in camp, quarterback?
Projected starter: Jay Cutler, 6-3, 233 pounds, 4th year, Vanderbilt
Brett Basanez, 6-1, 208, 2nd year, Northwestern
Caleb Hanie, 6-2, 225, 2nd year, Colorado State
Projected depth chart: Cutler, Hanie, Basanez
2009 salary cap numbers
Number of quarterbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 3
Projected number of quarterbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3
The skinny: Cutler is the most anticipated quarterback the Bears have had since the arrival of Jim McMahon more than a quarter-century ago. He possesses one of the most talented arms in the entire league and is being counted on to dramatically improve the production of a wide receivers corps that many still doubt. Cutler can make every throw on the field--he'll dazzle you with his arm strength at training camp--and should benefit from the presence of running back Matt Forte. One knock on Cutler has been his decision making. Sometimes he counts on his arm too much to slide the ball into spots it shouldn't go. But the Bears don't want to curb his aggressive nature. That is one of his strengths, after all. An awful lot has been made of the backup position with two unproven players in Hanie and Basanez but what's left out there to pursue? The bet is that Hanie will be every bit as good as a player on the discard pile right now. Basanez is a dink and dunk passer who will know the system inside out but can't make all the throws. Keep an eye on Hanie. He throws a nice deep ball.
The upside: Cutler tops the 25 touchdowns he threw last season in Denver and comes close to throwing for 4,000 yards and he earns a Pro Bowl selection and guides the Bears to the postseason.
The downside: There can't be a downside to having Cutler, can there? Sure, injury could strike but you can say the same thing about 31 other teams. Unfortunately, not everyone is outfitted with a Matt Cassel. Not even the New England Patriots.
On the hot seat: Naturally, Cutler will be asked to perform but Hanie will have to deliver in preseason and should get ample playing time. He needs to prove he's ready to be called on at any time.
Final thought: The Bears could go with just two quarterbacks on the roster like they mulled over last season but given the unproven nature of Hanie and Basanez both, that is unlikely. Still, it's worth considering as it's a great way to get some more roster flexibility.