NFC North: Denver Broncos
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears signed former Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams to a one-year contract on Friday, a source confirmed to ESPNChicago.com.
After offering longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher a one-year, $2 million contract that he refused, the Bears got Williams for a base salary of $900,000, the Chicago Tribune reported. He can earn a maximum of $1.75 million if he reaches all incentives.
DENVER -- The Chicago Bears couldn’t ward off the magic of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in dropping a 13-10 heartbreaker in overtime Sunday that will dramatically impact their standing in the NFC wildcard race.
A Marion Barber fumble sealed the team’s fate in overtime, and a questionable decision by the running back to step out of bounds -- which stopped the clock -- played a significant role in Denver tying the game at the end of regulation to send it into OT.
Marion, Marion, Marion…
Let’s take a closer look:
What it means: The Bears put themselves in a difficult spot for earning the postseason berth they seek, and they certainly didn’t get any help from the other NFC teams in the wildcard hunt.
Interestingly, last week all the teams in contention for the wildcard spots -- the Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions -- lost their respective games, leaving the standings unchanged. But the opposite transpired on Sunday, with every team in the NFC hunt except for the Bears winning their games.
So Chicago’s loss drops it out of the wildcard picture. The club will likely have to win each of its remaining four games to sneak back into the race.
Golden Goose: Robbie Gould kicked a 57-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, which appeared long enough to be good from a distance of approximately 65 yards.
Gould’s field goal was the longest in team history, and broke his own personal best of 54 yards last season against the Detroit Lions.
Prior to Gould’s bomb on Sunday, Kevin Butler and Bob Thomas were tied for the longest field goals in franchise history (55 yards). Butler connected on 55 yarders twice: on Dec. 12, 1993 at Tampa Bay, and on Oct. 25, 1993 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Thomas kicked a 55-yard field goal game in 1975 against the Los Angeles Rams.
What’s next: The Bears have ended their run of AFC West foes. Next week they host Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.
|A trade in April sent Kyle Orton (8) to Denver and Jay Cutler to Chicago.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert and Bill Williamson
This week's edition of Double Coverage started with ESPN.com bloggers Bill Williamson and Kevin Seifert discussing the lasting impact of the Jay Cutler trade. It morphed into a discussion of Brandon Marshall's status in Denver and also touched on recent news surrounding unemployed quarterbacks Brett Favre and Michael Vick.
In April, the Chicago Bears acquired the disgruntled Denver Broncos quarterback in a trade, giving up quarterback Kyle Orton and first-round picks in 2009 (18th overall) and 2010, along with a third-round pick (84th overall) in this year's draft to do it.
There was tons of competition for Cutler, and the Bears beat out at least four other teams to land the 25-year-old Pro Bowl QB.
The trade was made after the relationship between Cutler and Denver coach Josh McDaniels reached an impasse. Cutler asked to be traded when he found out McDaniels tried to acquire Matt Cassel in a trade with the Patriots.
Listen to the full podcast, where you'll hear:
- Seifert suggest that Cutler makes Chicago the early favorite in the NFC North.
- Williamson point out that the Broncos are happy with their return on the trade but aren't likely to be a better team with Orton.
- Scout's Inc.'s Jeremy Green wonder if Marshall will remain in Denver.
- Everyone wonder if Favre really means it this time.
- And much, much more.
Posted by ESPN's George Smith
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Just how interested are the Chicago Bears in acquiring wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Brandon Marshall? After practice at Halas Hall Wednesday, Bears head coach Lovie Smith was playing it cool.
"We keep all of our option open," Smith said. "The door is never closed on any player available."
Smith said Burress, whose status is uncertain because of criminal charges stemming from his self-inflicted, accidental gun shot wound to his leg last year, is "a good football player" but added that off-field issues play a big role in the team's evaluation process. Smith said he had not personally talked to Burress.
Asked about the Bears possibly adding Burress, quarterback Jay Cutler said, "If it happens, it happens."
As for Denver's Marshall, Smith said the Bears have not reached out to him. Marshall has requested a trade from Denver.
Cutler, who played two seasons with Marshall in Denver when Marshall caught more than 200 passes, said he has not talked to his former teammate about coming to the Bears. Cutler said he'd "let the guys upstairs handle that."
Cutler disagreed with the notion that the Bears need a No. 1 receiver. "I think we got one in Devin Hester," said Cutler, who added that Hester made some steps as a receiver last year, but this year is making giant strides.
"We got everything we need out there," Cutler said. "I'm 100 percent comfortable with the guys we have."
George Smith is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Chicago.
Just think about it: At this time next week, we'll only be FOUR HOURS AWAY from the start of the NFL draft. Can you hang on for seven more days? Maybe this weekend's mailbag can help you along.
We'll start with an analysis so thorough that we'll cede many megabytes of ESPN space to air it out. In fact, it pushes the rest of our mailbag into a newly created Part II that will appear Sunday. Hold on to your seat!
|AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh|
|How does the Jay Cutler trade compare to the draft-day deal that sent Eli Manning to the Giants?|
Andy of Springfield, Ill., writes: I know the Jay Cutler trade has to been beaten into the ground to an extent. However, there's a really good comparison I've yet to see anyone make. The similarity between Cutler and Eli Manning coming out of Ole Miss in 2004 is pretty uncanny. Eli didn't want to play for San Diego and, for the lack of a better term, whined until he got his trade. Cutler did very much the same. However, I've yet to see anyone compare the two trade in terms of value.
In 2004, New York traded their #4 pick, and their 3rd round choice (65th overall), plus a 2005 1st (which turned out to be No. 12) and 5th (144th) for Eli. Those picks turned out to be Phillip Rivers, Nate Kaeding, Shawne Merriman and they traded the 5th for Roman Oben. The Chargers made out like bandits getting two Pro Bowlers in Kaeding and Merriman and a probable future Pro Bowler in Rivers.
Chicago gave up the 18th pick, 84th pick in 2009 along with Orton and a future first-rounder in 2010. Both of the 2009 picks were worse than the ones the Giants gave up in 2004. If you go by the trade value chart on the Internet, the 2009 picks were worth 1,070 points. The picks the Giants gave up were worth 3299. Its hard to put a value on Orton but for the sake of math let's say he's worth 230 (8th pick in round 3).
At 1,300 points that means the Bears 2010 pick would have to be worth 2000 points (between the No. 3 and No. 4 pick in the draft) to equal what the Giants gave up for Eli. And that's not even mentioning the 5th the bears got back.
From the Bears standpoint, it seems like the Cutler deal is a steal in comparison to what the Giants had to pay. From a financial standpoint Cutler's contract is much more manageable than a #1 overall pick. ... Then there's the fact that Cutler is at least a somewhat proven player vs. Eli, who hadn't played an NFL down. Worst case for the bears would seem to be a level of play similar to Eli. Best case ... who knows.
Kevin Seifert: Thanks, Andy. That's a really thought-provoking analysis. Even without seeing those numbers, I think most everyone would agree that the Giants gave up much more value for Manning than the Bears did for Cutler.
But to me, that speaks to the value -- real or assigned -- to the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. As it stands right now, NFL teams give it the highest premium -- both in terms of cash and trade value -- of any other asset they deal with.
Consider it this way. To complete the analysis in terms of the draft value chart, you probably have to include the fact that Manning -- at No. 1 overall -- was worth 3,000 points. So purely in terms of draft picks, the Chargers came out 299 points "ahead" of the Giants in the trade.
Now let's look at the Cutler trade. We'll start with 1,070 points in the form of two picks in 2009. To keep things as close to apples-to-apples as we can, you have to take into account the approximate point value the Bears got in return. Cutler was the No. 11 overall pick in 2006, so in pure draft terms he is worth 1,250 points -- less than half of what Manning was worth at No. 1 overall.
When you add in the 900 points for the 2010 pick, leaving the position at No. 18 as you suggested, we get a total value of 1,970 points, which puts the Broncos ahead by 720 points in terms of draft picks. That's the equivalent of the No. 25 overall pick of the draft.
You could make an argument that Orton, plus the undefined value of Cutler's experience and development, are probably equal to that 720-point remainder. The conclusion is a relatively fair trade.
What this exercise points out is how unbelievably expensive the No. 1 overall pick is in every conceivable way. In order to grab it, the Giants had to give up far more value than the Bears did to acquire a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback.
In the end, the Bears paid less value than the Giants to get a more proven asset. Now you know why the No. 1 overall pick may never be traded again, at least under the current system.
Something smells familiar around here. After all, it wasn't too long ago when an NFL team put a prominent player on the trading block and suddenly the NFC North was awash in rumors?
And for good reason, as it turns out. Exactly two weeks ago, Denver shipped quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago after considering an offer from Detroit and speaking briefly to Minnesota early in the process. Based on the tone of letters in my mailbag, we're abuzz with the possibility that a Black and Blue team could grab receiver Anquan Boldin from Arizona.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed Wednesday the Cardinals will listen to offers for Boldin, who wants a contract that Arizona doesn't seem willing to offer. The Bears can still count receiver among their personnel needs, and Minnesota aggressively pursued free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh earlier this offseason.
I won't entirely rule out the possibility of Boldin joining Cutler in the NFC North, but there seems to be more circumstances working against it than there are in favor. Among them:
|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
|There are NFC North teams that would love to have Anquan Boldin but do not seem to have the necessary assets to trade for him.|
- There haven't been too many estimates as to the Cardinals' asking price, but the Bears already coughed up three valuable draft choices in the Cutler deal. They don't have a first- or third-round pick to trade this year, and they don't own a first-rounder in 2010. (They do have a third-round pick this season, but it was a compensatory award and thus not eligible to be traded.) The Bears could include the No. 49 overall pick this year, but that is their only immediate ammunition and probably isn't enough.
- The Vikings gutted their draft last year to acquire defensive end Jared Allen, and vice president Rick Spielman has spoken multiple times about the dangers of diminishing two consecutive drafts. It's true that the Vikings heavily pursued Houshmandzadeh, but he wouldn't have cost any draft choices. That courtship isn't necessarily an indication that the Vikings are strongly committed to upgrading their receiving corps. They considered the Houshmandzadeh opportunity to be unique in several ways. I don't doubt Boldin would help their offense and be a strong complement to Bernard Berrian, but I'm not sure it's enough of a need to give up multiple draft picks to fill. Sidney Rice, a second-round pick in 2007, should be ready to take the next step.
- The Lions, if they have any interest, are hampered by the same factors that conspired against them in the Cutler sweepstakes. They own eight draft picks, but that includes the poisonous No. 1 overall choice. The Cardinals, after all, won't want their compensation to earn more than Boldin is asking for. The Lions have enough assets to get a deal done, but their across-the-board holes should preclude them from dedicating a hunk of their draft toward acquiring one receiver.
- To be clear, it's without malice that I leave Green Bay out of this discussion. I think most of us would agree the Packers have a deep-enough receiving corps to allow them to sit this one out and focus on filling holes in other areas.
I can't totally rule out the possibility of an NFC North team getting involved here, but it's far from the slam dunk we saw in the Cutler discussions.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for a diverse and wide-ranging SportsNation chat that only moderately dealt with a guy whose name rhymes with Fay Butler. Here's a full transcript if you missed it.
Keith's question allows us to expand on an under-told part of the Jay Cutler trade story. Our exchange:
Keith (Belvidere, IL [via mobile]: With Chicago trading for Cutler (which I personally believe was a fantastic move on Angelo's part) where does that leave them in terms of salary cap space for the draft and the rest of free agency this year and can you see Hakeem Nicks still being available when they draft in the 2nd rd?
Kevin Seifert: Oddly, the Bears now have more salary cap space in the short-term than they would have were it not for the trade. Cutler has a lower cap number in 2009 than Orotn would have. And the Bears will have to spend less money to sign their rookie classes in each of the next two years after giving up the first-round picks. That money gets transferred from the rookie pool to the general salary cap to be used on veteran players.
Yes, Cutler ($1.035 million) will actually count slightly less against the Bears' salary cap in 2009 than Kyle Orton would have ($1.095 million). The reason, for you cap enthusiasts: By NFL cap rules, only Cutler's base salary travels with him to Chicago. The remaining proration from his guaranteed money remains on Denver's books.
I wouldn't suggest that the salary cap played any role in this trade. But the fact is the Bears will also realize a "savings" from not having the No. 18 overall pick in the draft later this month. Based on 2008 draft numbers, you can assume the No. 18 pick this year will get a five-year deal worth about $15 million, including perhaps $9 million in guaranteed money. Teams structure rookie deals differently, but it's reasonable to assume a first-year cap number of around $3 million that won't count against the Bears' cap in 2009.
From a pure salary-cap perspective, the Bears won't have an incentive to extend Cutler's contract until its final year in 2011. Based on likely-to-be-earned incentives, Cutler's 2010 cap number is expected to be a reasonable $5.532 million. It jumps to $13.91 million for 2011, but you would assume Cutler will have a new contract by then -- if not long before.
- ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth warns that Jay Cutler should be careful what he wishes for. Cutler is going to an offense that has lots of holes and not many draft picks to fill them with.
- ESPN.com's Bill Williamson doesn't like the Bears-Broncos trade from a Denver perspective.
- ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike also tackled the topic Friday morning, conducting interviews with: Mike Ditka, John Jurkovic from ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Ron Jaworski, SI's Peter King and Mel Kiper Jr.
Cutler is midway through the six-year, $48 million contract he signed after Denver drafted him in 2006. There has been rampant speculation that his desire to leave the Broncos was in part a ploy to jump-start negotiations for an extension, but the Bears haven't crossed that bridge yet.
"No," Angelo said on a teleconference with reporters. "We have not talked to his agent about that."
It's probably a matter of when -- and not if -- Chicago will approach Cutler about a new deal. After giving up three draft choices to acquire him, including a pair of first-round picks, the Bears certainly want more than three years of security.
I'll be back with a couple more posts before the night is over. Cutler is en route to Chicago and is scheduled to be introduced at a news conference Friday afternoon.
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.
Here's a 2009 story if there ever was one: Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett has questioned whether the Packers should step up their personnel efforts -- via Twitter.
According to this story from Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Barnett sent the following message via his Twitter account Tuesday night:
"Ok question does anyone else think we need more d line man???"
Barnett confirmed that he sent the message to the Twitter Web site when a reporter asked him at halftime of a Milwaukee Bucks game.
When asked to expand during the interview, Barnett -- who is rehabilitating from knee surgery -- said:
"We've lost some guys; it's a new scheme. We have [Cullen] Jenkins on the outside, [Ryan] Pickett on the inside; we'll have [Johnny] Jolly with whatever happens with his situation. But the years that we've been very good on defense, we've had good depth on the defensive line with some good quality. We have some young guys coming up, but it's always good to have that very good depth at d-line."
Asked if general manager Ted Thompson should have done more in free agency, Barnett said:
"I think he's done some good things by keeping guys on the team. I think he's going to do some good things in the draft. Ted's style is not to overpay. He kind of does a good job of keeping guys on the team that he likes and in the draft we'll see what happens."
This doesn't exactly qualify as a rip of Thompson. But Barnett's assessment of the Packers' defensive line, as it stands right now, is fair and accurate.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Media members received a tour of the Packers' new weight room Wednesday, and Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette filed this report. One nugget: "If you get caught sitting down, you have to do push-ups."
- I'm not a big fan of Chicago's plan to play Orlando Pace at left tackle and Chris Williams on the right side. But Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times notes it's been done many times before -- including with future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden in Baltimore.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune believes the Bears will make an aggressive push for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler before it is all said and done.
- Mike Mulligan of the Sun-Times reports the Broncos were requiring text and e-mail communication on Cutler because they couldn't keep up with the phone calls.
- Not unexpected news: The Broncos don't want the Lions' No. 1 overall pick in exchange for Cutler, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- David Birkett of the Oakland Press doesn't see the Lions and Cutler as a good match.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune doesn't mince words when it comes to Minnesota pursuing Cutler: "Frankly, I would rather take my chances with Michael Vick, a rehabilitated dog fighter, than a brat so sensitive that he goes into a world-class pout when his new coach explores the possibility of bringing in a quarterback with whom the coach had previously worked."
There seems to be an assumption that any trade for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler will require a three-way arrangement that allows the Broncos to get a legitimate starter in return. The idea: Any team trading for Cutler isn't going to have a starting-caliber quarterback on its roster, and thus will need to pull a third team into the mix -- say, Cleveland -- that has a relative surplus at the position.
Yet from this vantage point, there are at least two flaws in that theory.
First, there's no certainty the Broncos will demand a quarterback in return. They recently signed former Tampa Bay starter Chris Simms, who could serve as a short-term bridge if Denver drafts a future starter later this month.
Second, there is a Black and Blue team that seems to have the necessary ammunition for a traditional two-way trade if the Broncos do want a starter in return. Chicago not only has the No. 18 overall pick in the draft, but it also has Kyle Orton -- whose future with the Bears would end anyway if they acquire Cutler. You'll never mistake Orton for Cutler, but he would give the Broncos a solid option during this shaky transition period. Orton's favorable contract status -- his deal expires after 2009 -- gives the Broncos some flexibility as well.
So how about it? Orton, the No. 18 overall pick and perhaps one more draft choice for Cutler? All things being equal, a two-way deal is always easier to pull off.
We're not yet clear where the market is going to land. The Broncos have cut some of their leverage by announcing their plans for a trade and there is also the challenge of signing Cutler to a long-term contract extension. But the Bears have the NFC North's best chance of pulling off a clean and much easier two-way deal -- especially if the Broncos want a replacement as part of the package.
(Their two league-wide competitors in this regard are Cleveland -- which could offer Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn -- and Washington, which could ship out Jason Campbell. There have been no indications of interest from either team, however.)
The biggest question is how serious the Bears are. To this point, multiple reports have characterized their interest as exploratory. And at the NFL owners meeting last week, coach Lovie Smith provided his standard unflinching endorsement of Orton's progress:
"We like Kyle. He's done everything we've asked him to do. We've seen him in every imaginable situation you can. Rookie being thrown into the fire, leading us to a great year. Having a chance to sit back and go through a little adversity, watch, learn and get ready for his next opportunity. Last year, this time last year, hadn't been named the starter, but he was going to compete for the job. Stepped up to the plate. It was obvious who our leader should be. Made him team captain. First real year as a starter. Played well. Thought he played well early in the year. Didn't play as well after he injured his ankle. I'm excited about seeing him go through the offseason as the starter, working with his receivers throughout. He's our quarterback. We're going to go from there."
Of course, we know Smith doesn't change his mind gradually. (I seem to recall something about Rex Grossman being "our quarterback" as well.) Orton will be "our quarterback" until the minute Cutler, or someone else, is.
On the other hand, Detroit and Minnesota would face more obstacles if they want to get involved in the bidding.
For the Lions, giving up at least two more picks to get Cutler would further limit their ability to restock the roster. And if they keep their No. 1 overall pick, they're looking at a pair of simultaneous monster contracts that will include at least $55 million in guaranteed money. It might well be worth the sacrifice on both counts to get a franchise quarterback, but still a consideration nonetheless.
Neither the Lions nor Vikings have a starter to offer Denver in return. Despite offseason raves about Daunte Culpepper's conditioning, I doubt the Broncos would accept him as a reliable replacement for Cutler. And let's just say the Vikings are one of the few NFL teams who consider Tarvaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels as a potential 16-game starter.
Again, most of this depends on Chicago. I don't know what the final price tag is going to be, but the Bears are in solid position -- if they're interested.