Going Old Could Be the Thing to Do

Maybe Tom Brady set a trend the Bears can follow by finding an older quarterback to play a few years as they develop one of their own, or maybe they already have one, but if Ben Roethlisberger is availble he'd be worth a look.
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The NFL had always been no country for old men, to borrow a movie title from the Cohen brothers.

Suddenly, Tom Brady comes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wins a Super Bowl at age 43. Will everyone want an old man?

Obviously it's better to have a rookie contract on some hot quarterback but older guys can suit a purpose. They can win for you while a backup learns and is ready to go. Green Bay has that situation now, supposedly, with Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love. The Packers had it with Brett Favre and Rodgers.

Last year the Indianapolis Colts did well by signing Philip Rivers for one last fling, and at age 39 he gave Buffalo a good run for its money in the playoffs while going out with a 97.0 passer rating and 7.7 yards an attempt.

What's he retiring for? He's still playing at a high level.

In fact, why on earth is Drew Brees retiring at age 42? Or is he? It hasn't been announced yet. He's had a passer rating in the 100s for six straight years and was at 106.4 last year.

Maybe the Bears should be thinking about getting their own old man for a year or two while they develop a rookie.

They might have the equivalent already in Nick Foles. He moves like an old guy. They're going to need to protect him far better than they would Mitchell Trubisky if the plan is to start him while a rookie develops.

In fact, some of the older players available in free agency can move better than Foles, who is only 32. They might also be better passers.

This going old trend doesn't always work.

The Broncos and Jets went that way with Joe Flacco and he has an 83.6 quarterback rating, 12 touchdown passes and eight interceptions for 12 starts with 33 sacks taken in two years with a 2-10 record as a starter. He's only a youthful 36.

Here are some old-man options for the Bears to explore, some being far better or more realistic than others:

Ben Roethlisberger

Big Ben turns 39 in a few days and his salary situation led to the uncomfortable truth for Pittsburgh: He might need to go. If he wants to stay there, they could come to a restructured deal of some type and let him finish his career there. Cutting him lets them save the $15 million roster bonus he's due March 20 but they'd eat his $22.5 million in roster bonus and another $5 million in guaranteed salary.

None of this would be a problem for the Bears if he was cut. They could work out their own deal with him if he'd be willing to play for much less. 

The real question with Roethlisberger might be does he have anything left? He had always been a yards-per-attempt guy, one of the better ones in the league at getting yards downfield. He'd been 7.3 or higher from 2009-20119. The last two years he's been at 5.7 and 6.3. 

When the Steelers' fortunes tanked last year, Roethlisberger went through a stretch of five straight games with a passer rating average of 77.1 and a yards per attempt of 5.7. He looked like someone who was done. 

It would be easy to dismiss him but he did come back with a big game against the Colts in the season finale. When the Steelers lost to Cleveland in the playoffs, he drew criticism for a game with four interceptions. But he did help them score 37 and all Pittsburgh's defense had to do was hold the Browns to 36. That's not much to ask.

Roethlisberger would definitely be worth looking at for one or two seasons if he got cut. Because of what he's meant to Pittsburgh, a restructured deal of some kind sounds possible. However, the total cap hit of $41 million the Steelers will get if he plays on the current deal means something must give.

Matt Ryan

This one keeps being mentioned like it's a viable option, but it really doesn't look like one until next year. 

Owner Arthur Blank often says and does things which leave people wondering and so there have been skeptics when he announced Ryan was staying put. 

Ryan will be 36 this season. He hasn't been among the elite for a while. His passer rating has been 93.3 or worse three of his last four seasons and really has been average or worse six of his last eight years. However, you wonder what he could do with just a little better blocking. He was sacked 40 times or more each of the last three seasons. All the while, his yards per pass attempt has remained high. The worst it's been is what it was the last two years, 7.3. This is a respectable number. Ryan isn't a real option because the Falcons would be dining on dead cap money without a way to recoup much in terms of reduced salary from their payroll. Next year they could realize cap savings on his deal and could just cut him.

 About the only way for Atlanta to get rid of Ryan this year would be a trade. Even then they would be losing $3.5 million of cap space total. He is counting for 22% of their cap space this year with the ridiculous deal they signed, according to Overthecap.com.

Alex Smith

The Bears might find him available because of his big cap hit and Washington might be moving forward with a draft pick or even a trade for Sam Darnold. If cut, past ties with Matt Nagy would make Smith an ideal fit next season at 37 for the Bears offense.

Because Washington lost in the playoffs after his calf injury, Smith’s contribution might not be realized by some. Last year, he struggled in passer rating in the final five games at 77.1 with five TDs and five interceptions, but did what was needed to win all five games. This would work well with a team that has a strong defense. Washington won all five of those starts behind Smith, including victories over Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

This would be a low-budget, high-excitement free agent signing. "Fitzmagic" is a guy who takes far more risks with the ball than Matt Nagy likes from his passers. He's a free agent. So it's simply a matter of signing him for what would likely be less than $10 million. Three years ago he led the NFL in yards per attempt at a phenomenal 9.6 with Tampa Bay. If you knew he'd bring this type of game he'd be worth the acquisition. Even last year, with 7.8 yards an attempt and a 95.6 rating, he played effectively.

Joe Flacco

See above. Flacco since turning 34 seems to have left his playing ability in Baltimore.

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