Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Revisiting the Cutler trade

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

We will not know for some time who won or who lost the blockbuster trade between the Broncos and the Bears in April that sent Jay Cutler to the Windy City.

But 10 games into the trade, it seems the Broncos may have the edge. Denver gets the early nod for three reasons:

1. Cutler is struggling in Chicago.

2. Kyle Orton looks like he’s Denver’s leader.

3. The Broncos received several players in the deal and have a top pick still to come.

Cutler was the centerpiece of the deal, of course. Denver decided to deal Cutler, who made the Pro Bowl in his third season at 25, because he couldn’t get on the same page with new coach Josh McDaniels. In Chicago, especially in recent games, the bad Cutler has taken over. Cutler was mostly good in Denver, but he did have occasional mental lapses. The mental lapses have taken over his game recently.

There is plenty of time to salvage his Chicago days, but, at this moment, Cutler doesn’t look to be worth the bounty Chicago surrendered.

The Bears threw Orton into the deal because they didn’t need him anymore. He’s become a key cog in Denver. The Broncos probably will try to re-sign him in the offseason.

Orton has been mostly good for Denver. He led the team to its 6-0 start. Orton was not good in the next two games, two Denver losses. But he was rebounded well. Sunday, he cemented himself as Denver’s leader when he entered the game in the second quarter in a crucial game against San Diego despite a badly sprained ankle. He played the rest of the game and played pretty well. It is clear Orton's teammates believe in him, something that wasn’t always the case with the Cutler, who has a reputation for being somewhat aloof.

While Cutler is more talented than Orton, some Broncos feel they now have better leadership at the position.

In addition to Orton, Denver received first- and third-round picks in 2009 and a first-rounder in 2010. Chicago is 4-6, so the 2010 choice could be fairly decent.

The Broncos chose linebacker Robert Ayers with the No. 18 pick they acquired in the deal. Ayers has shown flashes, although he was not active against San Diego. Still, the Broncos like him as a future player.

Denver packaged the third-rounder from the Bears with their third-round pick in a draft-day trade with Pittsburgh that netted tight end Richard Quinn and guard Seth Olsen. Both players could help down the road. It does need to be noted that Pittsburgh used the third-round pick Denver got from Chicago to select receiver Mike Wallace. He has been a rookie star.

Chicago did get a fifth-rounder from Denver in the Cutler deal and used it on receiver Johnny Knox, who looks promising.

After 10 games, this deal does not heavily favor either side. But Denver received some decent pieces and Cutler has not lived up to early expectations. The edge goes to Denver at this point.