A few weeks ago, we referred to the Jay Cutler story as "fun speculation" as it applied to the NFC North. You had three division teams expressing a desire to improve the quarterback position, but at the time there was no indication that Denver would be willing to trade Cutler to the Upper Midwest or anywhere else.
That drawback seems to have dissipated a bit after Sunday's news that Cutler has formally requested a trade. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, meanwhile, told the Denver Post that "we might lose our star quarterback," a relatively shocking admission of defeat before trade talks begin.
So will Chicago, Detroit or Minnesota become serious players for Cutler? There is little doubt the topic is being discussed in each team headquarters Monday morning -- if it hasn't already been hashed through.
In the meantime, let's do a little hashing ourselves on behalf of those three Black and Blue cities (in alphabetical order, of course):
Current depth chart: Kyle Orton, Caleb Hanie, Brett Basanez
Key quote: "We have to stay focused on the quarterback position. You win because of the quarterback." (General manager Jerry Angelo early in the offseason.)
Cliff's notes: The Bears aren't sure if Orton is their long-term starter, but to this point they appear set to give him another season to prove himself.
Why Cutler makes sense: He was a Bears fan growing up, so it's likely he would accept a trade to Chicago. That's no small accomplishment for a player who appears to have some maintenance issues. Cutler has proved more in three years than Orton has in four and still has more room for improvement. The Bears could also offer the Broncos a short-term solution at the position by including Orton in the deal.
Why it's difficult to imagine: The Bears typically guard their draft picks and cash with equal passion. Is Chicago willing to pay its quarterback a premium salary, which a trade for Cutler would essentially require? For Cutler, you figure it would take upwards of $30 million in guaranteed money to complete a deal.
Current depth chart: Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, Drew Henson
Key quote: "It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne." (Coach Jim Schwartz during the Lions' interview process.)
Cliff's notes: The Lions were involved in a potential three-way deal that would have netted Cutler late last month. They're facing the difficult decision of whether to draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick next month.
Why Cutler makes sense: The Lions have the makings of a decent offense, especially if they use their top pick to solidify the offensive line. Scott Linehan is a quarterback-friendly coordinator, receiver Calvin Johnson is a rising star and tailback Kevin Smith is a reliable runner. A smart, strong-armed passer would bring it all together, and the Lions wouldn't have to pay Cutler much more than Stafford would be in line to receive. Finally, don't underestimate the excitement Cutler would bring to a fan base desperate for good news.
Why it's difficult to imagine: Frankly, it's hard to come up with many reasons to argue against this scenario. It's possible Cutler will want to avoid Detroit's rebuilding process. You also wonder if the Lions would want to give up multiple draft choices when they still have multiple holes to fill, especially on defense. But it's not often a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback becomes available.
Current depth chart: Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, John David Booty
Key quote: "There is also an incredible range of scenarios that none of us could know about right now." (Coach Brad Childress at the combine last month, adding a caveat to plans for Jackson to compete with a veteran for the starting job.)
Cliff's notes: The Vikings acquired Sage Rosenfels to compete with Jackson before the Cutler saga began.
Why Cutler makes sense: The Vikings won the division last season with a talented roster that includes the NFL's best running back and a top 10 defense. Quarterback is one of their few question marks. Cutler succeeded in a West Coast system not unlike the one Minnesota uses, and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has never been afraid to pay premium cash for top players. Why devote so many resources to other positions and ignore the most important one?
Why it's difficult to imagine: The Vikings, and Childress in particular, have a soft spot for Jackson and want him to succeed as their long-term quarterback. Acquiring Cutler would end that process once and for all. It would also gut their draft for the second consecutive year after the 2008 trade for defensive end Jared Allen. Earlier this month, vice president Rick Spielman said giving up another set of draft choices would "set the franchise back."