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Monday, March 2, 2009
Koutouvides' signing could be bigger than it appears

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Ordinarily, Tampa Bay's signing of linebacker Niko Koutouvides would merit nothing more than a quick mention. After all, he's a backup player without much of a resume.

And you can't really count this as general manager Mark Dominik's first real signing. After being released by Denver, Koutovides was a "street'' free agent and not a true unrestricted free agent.

But, at a time of year when conspiracy theories run wild, Koutouvides' signing should raise some eyebrows. Here's why:

Those who follow the Broncos regularly said Koutouvides was one of the closest friends of …(drum roll please) quarterback Jay Cutler. That's right, the same guy the Bucs unsuccessfully tried to trade for over the weekend. Cutler and Koutouvides played together for only one season, but observers said they struck up a strong friendship.

As I've been saying all along, I don't think this Cutler thing is over. It's common knowledge the Broncos at least considered trading him and that means the quarterback and the team might not be able to get over some hard feelings. It's a pretty safe assumption that Cutler might be even more on the block than he was before. Don't rule out Tampa Bay and Denver working out a trade.

And, with his best friend already on the roster, the Bucs could start looking very good to Cutler. One other thing along these same lines.

Jeremy Bates, who has moved on to Southern California, was the quarterbacks coach in Denver. Bates and Cutler also were very close. Bates is close to Bucs coach Raheem Moris -- the two started off as quality-control assistants in Tampa Bay.

Oh, one last thing. Bates' father, Jim, used to work for the Broncos. He's now defensive coordinator for the Bucs.

You connect the dots.