AFC West: Seth Olsen
When the Broncos traded up to take Cutler with the No. 11 pick of the 2006 draft, they probably would have been thrilled to know the quarterback would lead his team to a home championship game appearance in his fifth NFL season.
Unfortunately for Denver, Cutler is now a member of the Chicago Bears. The Broncos traded Cutler in April 2009, and they are still looking for their first playoff berth since they drafted him.
“This is the type of move that can adversely affect a franchise for five years,” Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton said. “There is no question. The Broncos are in much worse shape today than they were the day before they made this trade.”
This week gives Denver a painful reminder of how far the organization has fallen in the two years since Josh McDaniels replaced Mike Shanahan as head coach. Shanahan left a good offense, but Denver’s defense needed to be retooled. The job appeared to be an attractive one. The 8-8 Broncos were headlined by a 25-year-old quarterback who was coming off a Pro Bowl berth is in his second full season as a starter.
One of the primary reasons McDaniels was hired at age 32 to replace Shanahan was his ability to work with Cutler. Instead, the entire franchise was changed after McDaniels tried to acquire former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, who was instead traded to Kansas City. McDaniels and Cutler then feuded. Cutler was shipped out.
While Cutler is preparing to face Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, McDaniels is beginning a stint as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. He is trying to rehabilitate his once seemingly boundless coaching career after a disastrous 28-game run in Denver. Among McDaniels’ biggest missteps in Denver were poor personnel decisions, beginning with the Cutler trade.
“Chicago got the big prize here,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “The way this trade worked out for both Chicago and Denver is proof why teams don’t trade young, franchise quarterbacks. It’s just not something you do.”
What bothers Williamson and Horton most about the trade is what Denver did with the picks it got in the Cutler deal.
“The Broncos got value,” Williamson said, "but they squandered the picks.”
Because Denver made so many draft picks, it’s difficult to break down exactly what it received for Cutler. Denver originally sent Cutler and a fifth-round pick in 2009 (which turned out to be productive Bears receiver Johnny Knox) for quarterback Kyle Orton, first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 and a third-round pick in 2009.
Denver took defensive end/linebacker Robert Ayers with the 2009 first-round pick (No. 18). Ayers has shown some ability, but not as much as Denver hoped. It packaged the Bears’ 2009 third-round pick and its own third-round pick in a deal with Pittsburgh for the final pick of the second round and a fourth-round pick. Denver took tight end Richard Quinn in the second round and guard Seth Olsen with the fourth-round pick. Neither has made an impact. Pittsburgh took standout receiver Mike Wallace with the pick from Chicago.
Denver had the No. 11 pick in 2010 from the Bears. The pick was flipped several times and Denver packaged the compensation with other picks that resulted in the selections of receiver Demaryius Thomas, Tebow and receiver Eric Decker. All could have promising futures. The players selected by other teams as part of the 2010 trade were San Francisco first-round pick Anthony Davis, Philadelphia first-round pick Brandon Graham and New England fourth-round pick Aaron Hernandez.
Tangibly, it is safe to say Denver received Orton, Ayers, Quinn, Olsen and some of the trading power to help fuel the early 2010 selections.
Orton played well for Denver, but he could be traded if Denver gives Tebow the opportunity to start in 2011, which is expected. Ayers will have a chance to play defensive end with Fox’s defense likely going to a 4-3 scheme, but he still doesn’t look like a foundation player. It has to eat at Denver fans that the Broncos passed on linebacker Clay Matthews in favor of Ayers. Matthews is a star for Green Bay.
"Denver could have gotten so much more,” Horton said. “You saw Chicago get Knox and Pittsburgh get Wallace in this deal, and you just have to think the Broncos wasted a great opportunity here.
“The Broncos have to hope Tebow is a hit or this franchise will [be] set back for years. You look at Cutler, Brandon Marshall [traded to Miami], Peyton Hillis [traded to Cleveland], Mike Wallace and look at all the missed chances. This could be a very good team. But it’s starting over all because of this [Cutler] trade.”
Chicago is one game away from the Super Bowl.
“It’s not difficult to argue who won this trade,” Williamson said. “It wasn’t the Broncos.”
Biggest surprise: There were a few surprises from Denver on Saturday. The two big ones involved second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith and free-agent pickup Jarvis Green. Denver traded Smith to Detroit for reserve tight end Dan Gronkowski. Smith was the No. 37 overall pick last year, and Denver gave up its first-round pick in 2010 (No. 14) for Smith. He was a failure in Denver. Still, basically giving him away was a shocker. Denver paid Green several million to come in and be a starter on its new-look defensive line. Yet, Green could never win a starting job, losing out to Ryan McBean. Still, it never appeared Green’s job was in jeopardy. Also cut was second-year guard Seth Olsen. He was a fourth-round pick in 2009. Thus, Denver got rid of second-round pick and a fourth-round pick from a year ago. That’s not the way to build a program.
No-brainers: A big reason why Smith was expendable was the play of rookie cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Syd’Quan Thompson, fifth and seventh-round draft picks, respectively. These two players are keepers. Expect Cox to immediately play a huge role as the nickel cornerback and as a return man. Matthew Willis had a great camp and he deserved a roster spot. Keeping Willis was made easier when Denver put receiver Brandon Stokley on the injured reserve with a groin injury. There were reports earlier Saturday that Stokley was released. Recent pickup, linebacker Jason Hunter, excelled in the preseason and was an easy choice to make the roster, as was backup running back Lance Ball
What’s next: Denver will look to upgrade at a few spots. First on the list is running back. The Broncos have been decimated by injuries at the position this summer, and it is not clear if starter Knowshon Moreno will be ready to play opening day at Jacksonville. Denver will look at every running back option available. Other areas Denver could look to upgrade include tight end, offensive line, receiver and the defensive front.
Thanks to several trades (including one that sent Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago), the Broncos finagled five picks in the first two rounds. It was an impressive display of draft chip building by first-year Denver coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders.
There’s no doubt that if the Broncos become a premier team in the near future it will be because of the development of the 2009 draft class. However, it appears solid production from this class is not a foregone conclusion. The class produced very little last year for Denver, which also wheel-and-dealed this year and produced five players in the top No. 87 picks, including receiver Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round.
“I like how Denver has found ways to acquire picks, and it’s a good way of building a great foundation,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “I’m just not sold on the players they have taken.”
While the 2010 class prepares to begin their rookie season, the 2009 class in Denver is preparing to make progress from a disappointing NFL start. Denver also has hope fourth-round picks David Bruton and Seth Olsen (guard) and fifth-round pick Kenny McKinley (receiver) will contribute as well. But the attention is on the five picks in the first two rounds.
The following is a look at those top five picks from Denver’s 2009 class:
No. 12, Knowshon Moreno, running back
What’s expected in 2010: The Broncos have been pleased with what they have seen from Moreno this offseason and he seems to be more prepared for the long NFL season. He will be the starter and Denver hopes that he can get in the 1,200-1,400-yard range as the Broncos move to a more traditional power-blocking scheme.
A scout’s view: “I liked Moreno as a late-first round pick but not at No. 12. You don’t take a running back that high unless he is Adrian Peterson, a superstar. I don’t think Moreno will be a superstar, but he should be better in Year 2. He’s a good player, but not an elite player.” -- Matt Williamson
No. 18, Robert Ayers, linebacker:
What’s expected in 2010: It hasn’t started great. After being lauded by McDaniels for much of the offseason, Ayers didn’t practice for the first two days of the mandatory minicamp earlier this month. Finally, on the third day, Ayers did some work and McDaniels said the problem had been resolved. Ayers can’t have any more setbacks. He will get a chance to start at linebacker, but he must earn his keep.
A scout’s view: “I think he’s more of a 4-3 defensive end than a 3-4 linebacker. I don’t know if he is a good fit for Denver’s scheme. I’d be reluctant to write him off because he is adjusting to a new scheme.” -- Matt Williamson
No. 37, Alphonso Smith, cornerback
What’s expected in 2010: The Broncos expect Smith to be the nickel cornerback. If he doesn’t keep the job this year, the alarms will sound loudly.
A scout’s view: “I liked the move to get him at No. 37; I’m not so sure about giving up a first-round pick. He is tough as nails and he is a good player. I’m not sure why he had a slow start.” -- Matt Williamson
No. 48, Darcel McBath, safety
What’s expected in 2010: To continue to develop and help on defense when needed and be a special-teams standout. He will replace Brian Dawkins when he retires.
A scout’s view: “I thought he was a good pick and he could be a good player. But he’s backup for now.” -- Matt Williamson
No. 64, Richard Quinn, tight end:
What’s expected in 2010: He needs to develop. The team is using more of a power-blocking scheme so he may be on the field with Daniel Graham more in double-tight end sets.
A scout’s view: “He’s a blocking tight end. He’s not dynamic enough to use that high of a pick on. The Broncos already have Graham and Quinn is a Graham clone. It’s clear that’s what they want out of the position, but I’m not sure he’ll give them the production that’s expected because of what they gave up to get him.” -- Matt Williamson
Asked Saturday at the NFL combine if Marshall could be in a Denver uniform in 2010, McDaniels said “certainly.”
McDaniels said there is no timetable to hash out Marshall’s situation. He will likely become a restricted free agent Friday and there is expected to be interest on the trade market. An NFL head coach said Friday he thinks Denver will get a first-round pick in return for Marshall.
"I’m fond of Brandon,” McDaniels said. “He’s a good person and he’s been huge to our team.”
Still, if Denver gets a decent offer expect it to deal Marshall.
Here are other highlights from McDaniels’ session:
• Tight Tony Scheffler could also return. Scheffler is a likely restricted free agent and was suspended for the final game of the season along with Marshall for accountability issues.
• Third-year running back Peyton Hillis will remain on the team and McDaniels is looking forward to getting Hillis more involved. He expects to see third-year receiver Eddie Royal bounce back as well. Both Hillis and Royal were much less productive in McDaniels’ first season than they were as rookies in 2008.
• McDaniels is following the Darrent Williams murder trial and is up to speed on Elvis Dumervil and Marshall’s testimony.
• No. 2 quarterback Chris Simms could remain with the team and McDaniels is happy with Tom Brandstater' progress. McDaniels said the team has “high hopes” for Brandstater in the long run.
• McDaniels is confident new defensive coordinator Don Martindale will “do a phenomenal job.” Martindale, who coached Denver’s linebackers last season, replaced Mike Nolan. McDaniels said Martindale had the support of several of Denver’s players.
• Second-year player Seth Olsen is a candidate to start at left guard and center. McDaniels wants the team to get bigger on the offensive line and that’s one of the reasons why starting center Casey Wiegmann was cut this week.
- Tom Brandstater (3rd QB)
- Kenny McKinley, WR
- LaMont Jordan, RB
- Seth Olsen, G
- Ryan Harris, T
- Chris Baker, DL
- Brandon Lloyd, WR
- Jarvis Moss, OLB/DE
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.
DENVER -- Below are the inactive players from Monday night’s game.
As expected, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark is inactive because of concerns over his health. He has a rare sickle-cell trait that causes his body to adversely react to exertion in high altitudes. In 2007, the last time Clark played in Denver, he had complications that led him to lose his spleen and gall bladder.
2 Dennis Dixon 3QB
25 Ryan Clark S
65 Kraig Urbik G
66 Tony Hills T
77 Sunny Harris DE
81 Shaun McDonald WR
90 Travis Kirschke DE
94 Lawrence Timmons LB
3 Tom Brandstater 3QB
22 Peyton Hillis RB
30 David Bruton S
70 Seth Olsen G
74 Ryan Harris T
81 Richard Quinn TE
84 Brandon Lloyd WR
98 Ryan McBean DL
SAN DIEGO – Here are the inactive players for tonight’s game.
No real surprises. San Diego linebacker Stephen Cooper (knee) and Denver running back Correll Buckhalter (ankle) are active and will play:
San Diego Chargers Inactives
QB Charlie Whitehurst (3rd Quarterback)
RB Michael Bennett
FS C.J. Spillman
C Nick Hardwick
C Tyronne Green
WR Buster Davis
LB Antwan Applewhite
DE-DT Vaughn Martin
Denver Broncos Inactives
QB Tom Brandstater (third quarterback)
WR Kenny McKinley
LB-FB Spencer Larsen
G Seth Olsen
DL Chris Baker
T Brandon Gorin
WR Brandon Lloyd
OLB Jarvis Moss
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
Denver guard Chris Kuper escaped serious injury Sunday night against Chicago.
A source close to the situation said Kuper suffered a high ankle sprain. Kuper is going to try to play in Denver’s regular season opener Sept. 13 at Cincinnati. However, that may be an optimistic view. A high-ankle sprain could take weeks to heal. If Kuper can’t play, fourth-round pick Seth Olsen would likely substitute for him.
Still, the Broncos are looking at Kuper’s diagnosis as a positive. His injury looked to be much more serious when he had to be helped off the field Sunday night. Kuper is quietly becoming one of the best young guards in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Cutler was booed vigorously. It was so bad, Cutler couldn't hear the calls being relayed to him. Fans were stomping their feet when Cutler took the field, causing Invesco Field at Mile High to shake.
Cutler appeared to be affected by the reception early. But he did settle down and perform fairly well.
Denver quarterback Kyle Orton had to leave the game with a bloody index finger on his right hand, which is his throwing hand. With backup Chris Simms out for 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury, the only backups currently behind Orton are rookie Tom Brandstater and newly signed Ingle Martin.
Before he was injured, Orton wasn't perfect, but he seems to be calming down some. Orton will never be special, but if he can manage coach Josh McDaniels' system, he can be somewhat effective.
Denver receiver Jabar Gaffney has a broken thumb, according to the Denver Post. He will likely be out several weeks. Gaffney was starting for Denver with top receiver Brandon Marshall out because of a team suspension.
Guard Chris Kuper suffered what appeared to be either a knee or ankle injury. Kuper is an underrated player and a big part of Denver's strong offensive line. His loss would hurt. Rookie Seth Olsen replaced him.
Denver's defense looked decent. It provided solid pressure and it was very active.
Elvis Dumervil was all over Cutler. Dumervil is really adjusting well to the 3-4 defense. He is now a rush linebacker after starting his career as a defensive end. Dumervil could be primed for a good year.
Safety Brian Dawkins looked solid in his first preseason game after suffering a broken hand.
The official for the game is Ed Hochuli. He is famous for making a bad call that helped Denver win over San Diego last season. Hochuli has also officiated a Chargers' game this preseason.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Broncos signed their third draft pick in less than 24 hours Thursday by agreeing to terms with guard Seth Olsen. He was taken in the fourth round from Iowa.
Denver now has four of its 10 draft picks signed. First-round picks Knowshon Moreno and Robert Ayers are among the unsigned. Denver's rookies start practice Monday. Denver cut rookie free agent receiver David Grimes on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have released information on their first few days of training camp. I am planning on being at Napa for the kickoff of the Raiders' new season.