Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Where Will Cutler Land?

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has officially gone on record about the status of franchise QB Jay Cutler. What does he have to say? The man who was becoming Denver's first real QB since John Elway will be traded.

This isn't shocking. The relationship between Cutler and the Broncos has been slowly deteriroating. It didn't just start at the end of February, when word broke that Denver was trying to ship Jay Cutler to either Detroit or Tampa Bay in a three team deal that would have brought Matt Cassell to Denver. No, it started December 30th when head coach Mike Shanahan was fired. Then came the regime change, introducing new head coach Josh McDaniels on January 11th followed by the departure of QBs coach and Cutler's close friend Jeremy Bates on the 19th. The last straw appears to be the open trade discussions during that first day of free agency at the end of February.

Since the whole soap opera roared into focus a little more than a month ago, each side has volleyed the blame. The Broncos organization states that Cutler demanded a trade even before the free agency period, which he and his agent, Bus Cook, deny. There have even been some reports of a possible alcohol-related problem with the rising QB. Things have gotten worse when the sides at least appeared to try and reconcile. There was a videoconference meeting which reportedly didn't go well. Then Cutler didn't show up for "voluntary" workouts. In the most recent turn of events, Bowlen says that he and McDaniels have not been able to contact Cutler in the last 10 days. That got us to this point.

Bowlen said he spoke with Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, on Tuesday and came away convinced "that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos.

"Therefore, Bowlen said, "We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."

Before we get into the Cutler landing destinations, where does this leave Denver? They severed ties with backup Patrick Ramsey to sign Chris Simms. They also have Darrell Hackney. They could be players for unrestricted free agents Byron Leftwich and Jeff Garcia. They most certainly will be looking for a QB in the draft and could grab Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, or Josh Freeman with the 12th overall pick on April 25th.

Where will he land?

Of course, they could be getting an even better pick to lobby for a rookie passer. Where may that come from? Let's assume that the final asking price by Denver is the teams first round picks in 2009 and 2010 plus a third rounder this year and a fourth round selection next year. Or it's the teams first and third round picks in 2009, their third round pick in 2010, and a veteran QB.
  • Jets - This would be an exponentially better trade than the one they made for the devil Brett Favre. They don't have the veteran QB to offer so it's plan one. Cutler would immediately add stability to the QB position and the Jets can add some WR and RB depth in the second and fourth round this year. The defense is shaping up to be a good one and the addition of Cutler could make the AFC East wide open.
  • Lions - Detroit has two first round picks to work with this season so they have to be considered one of the front runners in the Cutler sweepstakes. Detroit is considering taking a QB #1 overall anyway. Why not get someone who is still young yet proven to be a threat in the league? Even if Detroit had to give away both their first round picks this year plus, say, a third in 2009 and/or 2010, they still come out better. Finding a proven starter at QB isn't a sure things; Cutler is one already.
  • Buccaneers - Even with John Gruden gone the Buccaneers are infatuated with QBs. Why? They don't have one. Josh Johnson is still young and raw. If he's the future they need a veteran holdover for another two years. Or they could ship him and some picks to Denver and be set.
  • Browns - Cleveland has probably the best roster bargaining chips to make a deal with Denver. With the Broncos shifting to a 3-4 and Cleveland having a disgruntled NT, perhaps a deal involving Shaun Rogers and Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson plus a pick or two could get Cutler and a mid-round pick in return. Sounds feasible to me.
  • Bears - Chicago has been reluctant to add a young QB of late, choosing instead to go with Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, the incumbent starter. Orton played admirably last year so he could be included in the deal with Denver. Or the Bears could ignore his availability all together, much like they have done with QBs in free agency and the draft the last two years.
  • Jaguars - Jacksonville is an interesting location for Cutler. The Jaguars have something to return to Denver (David Garrard) as well as a pick in the first round this year slightly in front of Denver. How much does Jack Del Rio fear for his job? If he thinks he needs to make a splash getting Cutler could be what the doctor ordered. However, the Jaguars offensive roster may actually be worse than the one in Detroit. Who would Cutler throw to? And who will block for him?
  • Redskins - Daniel Snyder is always willing to spend money and draft picks to get players he thinks are difference makers. He is usually wrong but he is trying. Washington has a QB to return (Jason Campbell) as well as the pick right behind Denver in the first round. Would adding Cutler really help Washington? They play in the uber-competitive NFC East. However, they were right in the playoff race until the final few weeks of the season. Cutler could put them over the top. Or their weaknesses along both the offensive and defensive lines could grow larger in 2009 due to the lack of young depth they wouldn't be able to add through the draft. A new caveat, according to Pro Football Talk, is that Snyder may be looking to axe head coach Jim Zorn after the '09 season if the team fails to make the plaoffs. His likely replacement, former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.
Obviously for most teams the risk/reward analysis is the same. Can they afford to tarde four or five picks over the next two drafts for a young stud QB? Can they win with him and little young talent? Cutler threw for 4,526 yards and 25 TDs with an 86 rating. Those are pretty good numbers. It's clear he won't be back in Denver; where does he go?

I'd say the most likely destinations are the Jets, Lions, Browns, and Redskins. Each has the show the willingness to recklessly throw around draft picks and money or has the assets Denver would want in return.

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