Jay Cutler can see the handwriting on the wall. And the Chicago Bears announcing this week that the team was benching him in favor of journeyman quarterback Jimmy Clausen speaks loud and clear to him.

“It definitely crossed my mind” Cutler told ESPN when asked if he felt his days as one of the Bears’ unquestioned leaders and the team’s  starting signal-caller  are numbered.

Despite being the league’s top paid offensive player at $126 million over seven-years, the Bears announced this week they are benching the veteran Cutler in favor of the largely unproven Clausen for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

“You sign a seven-year deal, and you think you’re going to be here for a while,” Cutler added. “I’m still hopeful that’s going to ring true, that we’ll have another shot at this. But after this last game, a lot could happen.”

But after the Bears’ Monday night meltdown against New Orleans, who knows? Cutler threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times in the 31-15 drubbing. He also posted a season-low passer rating of just 55.8.

In a season where the team was once prominently mentioned as Super Bowl contenders, the Bears now stand at 5-9, with Cutler having absorbed a league-high 24 turnovers (18 interceptions and six forced fumbles).

Still, Cutler insists his preference would be to return to Chicago and put behind him being benched in favor the journeyman Clausen. And he insists all the money has little to do with it.

“I’m still disappointed whether they pay me or don’t,” he said. “I don’t like being in this situation. I don’t like having to sit up here and answer questions about me not being able to play on Sunday. I’d rather get paid less and be able to play on Sunday and play at a high level if that was possible. But it’s not right now. The security of the contract is nice, but I would trade that for reversing our record and playing better football.”

[Photopin: Mike Shadle]