The No. 1 albatross

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
By now, you shouldn't be surprised by this nugget of the Jay Cutler story: Detroit hasn't gained much traction in the trade discussions because Denver won't accept the Lions' No. 1 overall pick as part of a trade. Chris Mortensen reported that news over on the NFL page of ESPN.com.

The salary requirements and external pressure of the draft's top pick have made it a toxic asset, as we discussed last week. The Broncos don't want to spend a minimum of $30 million guaranteed for an unproven rookie any more than the Lions do, especially in a draft that might not have a transcendent player.

Ironically, the No. 10 or even the No. 15 pick would be more valuable for the Lions in these trade discussions. The Lions could conceivably acquire Cutler with their No. 20 overall pick if they package their second-round pick or perhaps a 2010 first-rounder, Mortensen reported, but I doubt that deal would work for the Lions.

Why? Acquiring Cutler and signing him to a market-level contract extension would require perhaps $30 million in guaranteed money. There are creative ways to finance huge contracts, but ultimately the Lions would be committing a minimum of $55 million to $60 million in guaranteed money to Cutler and the No. 1 overall pick.

Using standard proration rules, the Lions could make that work from a salary-cap standpoint. But from a pure cash-flow position, Mortensen reports, Detroit couldn't absorb such a substantial simultaneous outlay and still afford its remaining player expenses.

So, in the end, the No. 1 pick could prove a dealbreaker for the Lions in their pursuit of Cutler. Such is the reality of the NFL's rookie pay scale, an issue illustrated expertly here by ESPN's John Clayton.