Miami Dolphins

Cutler’s open to playing in 2018 — but he wants to start. What that means for Dolphins

Jay Cutler: I’m only playing next year if I’m a starter.
Jay Cutler: I’m only playing next year if I’m a starter. AP

Jay Cutler knows Sunday could be the last time he puts on NFL pads.

Whether it’s his decision or not, there’s a real chance Cutler retires for the second time in as many years this offseason.

And this one would probably take.

Cutler on Wednesday left the door open to continuing his career in 2018, but based on his stipulations and the lay of the land, there is a very good chance that Sunday’s game is his last.

When asked whether he would continue his career only as a starter, Cutler replied:

“Yeah, I think so,” Cutler said. “I wouldn’t want to move again and go somewhere and just to back up.”

If not for the words “move again,” we could almost certainly say Sunday will be his last game as a Dolphin.

Ryan Tannehill, assuming he is healthy, will start for the Dolphins in 2018.

But, of course, that is a big assumption. By the time the next season begins, Tannehill will have gone 20 months without taking an NFL snap. He has had two major injuries to the same knee, and while the Dolphins are confident he will make a full recovery, there is no guarantee he will.

Tannehill’s health is the reason Cutler is playing at all this year. He thought his career was over, and was all set to become a game analyst for Fox.

But Adam Gase coaxed him out of retirement after Tannehill’s most recent injury in hopes of saving the season. It did not work. The Dolphins on Sunday were eliminated from postseason consideration.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler speaks to the media after the Miami Dolphins defeat the New England Patriots 27-20 at Hard Rock Stadium on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Cutler has not been a panacea. His 2017 stats: 2,660 passing yards (24th in the NFL), 19 touchdowns (17th), an 80.9 passer rating (26th) and 6.2 yards per passing attempt (6.2).

Still, he believes his decision to play this year was the right one.

“It was a great experience,” Cutler said. “It’s a really good locker room, really good coaches, great organization, great owner. I had a really good time.”

He had a chance this year to rewrite a mixed legacy, but Cutler probably changed no minds, one way or the other, with the way he played this year. Cutler passed when given a chance to reflect on his career.

Cutler’s motivation for returning next year, if he does so?

“I love playing football. You can only do it for so long. Everyone has some point in their career that they can’t play anymore. Whether it’s your decision or someone else’s decision, it happens. You guys can write and type for a long time. We can only play football for so long.

And reasons against coming back?

“Being away from my family, if someone doesn’t want me to play anymore. A lot of these decisions are out of players’ control.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley