NFL Nation: Cutler rift

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Shelley from Washington, DC writes: Hey James, love the Blog. I'm a longtime Steeler and I've gotten a little obsessed with the ongoing Cutler-Broncos drama, but people have started suggesting that the Broncos trade Cutler to the Browns for Quinn. Now, as a Steeler fan, I think that would be the worst news for us this offseason--we already have Carson Palmer and an up-and-coming Flacco to deal with and the thought of another top-notch quarterback in the division is frightening. So my question is, is this sort of deal (Cutler for Quinn) something the Browns/Mangini would actually go for? Thanks!

 
  Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
  Could Cleveland be a possible destination for Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler?

The Cleveland Browns are extremely tight-lipped about their offseason plans. But there is enough smoke to link them as a possible destination for disgruntled Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.

Let's examine the pros and cons to making such a move.

Pros

1. The Browns have two QBs available

The Browns can offer Denver what no team interested in Cutler can: a starting-caliber quarterback. Not only that, Cleveland has two young signal-callers in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.

2. Cleveland drafts high

Cleveland owns the fifth pick in the first round. Because a straight-up trade is not beneficial to the Broncos, draft picks are very important. Any package involving Cutler likely would include a pick or two. And compared to possible destinations such as Tampa Bay and Minnesota, Cleveland has higher picks in most rounds. The Browns also own two second-round picks -- their own and Tampa Bay's -- because of the Kellen Winslow Jr. trade. Second-rounders are extremely valuable to teams because the contracts are not as expensive as first-rounders.

3. Eric Mangini isn't tied to Quinn or Anderson

New head coach Eric Mangini is not particularly set on either quarterback, and it's evident when he says he could open a quarterback competition if both players remain on the roster. Reading between the lines, that means neither signal-caller impressed Mangini when he turned on the game tape from last season. Part of the problem with the previous regime is that the front office and ownership wanted Quinn to play, while the coaching staff tried to stay loyal to Anderson, who earned 10 wins in 2007 and went to the Pro Bowl. This created division from within. With Mangini there is a clean slate, no favorites, and the potential to move either player regardless of pedigree.

(Read full post)

ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike tackled the Jay Cutler-Denver Broncos situation Tuesday morning with Herm Edwards, John Clayton and Brian Billick:

  • ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards discusses the Jay Cutler situation in Denver, the possibility of Julius Peppers playing for the Patriots and how impressive the Patriots are when it comes to building their team.
  • John Clayton has the latest on Cutler and the Broncos. Where are the likely destinations for Cutler should the Broncos trade him?
  • Brian Billick says it's vital for a coach and QB to be on the same page. And while the Cutler-Broncos relationship is fractured now, it is a relationship that can be healed.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Besides the hundreds of mailbag items I'm getting from Tampa Bay fans about Jay Cutler, I'm getting a surprisingly large amount of similar items from Carolina fans.

Their question: Why don't the Panthers trade defensive end Julius Peppers for Cutler? In other words, swap one disgruntled player for another?

 
  Chris Keane/Icon SMI
  Would the Panthers consider replacing longtime starter Jake Delhomme with Jay Cutler?

I don't see it because I think general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox have too much loyalty (even though it might be blind loyalty) to Jake Delhomme. All indications are the Panthers plan to stick with Delhomme, even after that five-interception game in the disastrous playoff loss to Arizona. There's also a school of thought that Cutler might be a bit of a problem.

The Panthers like to say repeatedly that they won't touch guys with issues and that's largely true. But there's a running joke among scouts in the league with the Carolina scouts every time they say, "We can't touch this guy" because of issues. Every time that happens, scouts from other teams say, "What about Steve Smith?"

Yes, it's true, the wide receiver has had plenty of issues (he's been involved in fights with teammates three times) and there's no question the Panthers have bent the rules for him. But Smith's issues are with controlling his anger and when the Panthers have been able to keep him focused, they've gotten huge results from him.

That's why I don't think you can completely write off the Cutler scenario. Is the guy really a trouble-maker? Maybe he's just in a situation where he needs a fresh start.

Fox and Hurney have long been hesitant to go out and draft a rookie quarterback because they believe they take too long to develop. But, sooner or later, they're going to need a replacement for Delhomme, who's not getting any younger. This might be their opportunity to get an immediate and established replacement.

Let's face the facts here: The Panthers have to do something about Peppers, who's tying up $17 million in cap space with the franchise tag and wants out of Carolina even more than Cutler wants out of Denver. Just a thought, but why not unload him for a franchise quarterback?

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 Cutler

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):

Chicago Bears

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.

Detroit Lions

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.

Minnesota Vikings

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."

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The evening winds up with new developments in the swirling Jay Cutler saga.

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The most eye-opening and potentially telling information of the 15-day old drama came from Denver owner Pat Bowlen and was reported in The Denver Post on Sunday. Also, Denver TV station CBS4 is reporting Cutler and Denver tight end Tony Scheffler will not attend the Broncos' offseason workout program, which begins Monday.

Big news, indeed. But let's tackle Bowlen's statement first.

A day after the two sides had another unproductive meeting (this time in person at the team's facility), Bowlen spoke and it is clear he believes the situation with his Pro Bowl quarterback is dire.

"I'm disappointed in the whole picture," Bowlen said, "not just disappointed that we might lose our star quarterback."

There it is. The Broncos have publicly said they think Cutler could be gone because of this ordeal, which began Feb. 28 when Cutler caught wind that the Broncos were in trade discussions about dealing him and acquiring Matt Cassel. They have publicly said they have been forthright with Cutler about only listening to trade talks, while Cutler's side has maintained the Broncos were trying to trade him.

The only way the Broncos are going to lose Cutler is if they trade him. And if they trade him, they must figure out soon how to get maximum value for the strong-armed quarterback, who is entering his fourth season. The Broncos clearly don't want to trade him, but Bowlen's comments show that the team believes it is a possibility.

Meanwhile, the report that Cutler and Scheffler will not attend Monday's meeting is intriguing for several reasons.

If Cutler does, indeed, not show up it will take his saga to another level. Even though it is voluntary, players are expected to go and for the quarterback to be miss McDaniels' first function as an NFL coach would speak volumes on the rift.

Also, the report that Scheffler will stay away is intriguing. Cutler and Scheffler are close friends and both players are represented by the same agent, Bus Cook. It has been reported that the team was shopping Scheffler because he doesn't fit McDaniels' system.

Yes, this thing is getting more interesting by the day, and Bowlen's quote only thickens the plot.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

They drafted "franchise'' quarterbacks who didn't work out in Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer. For years now, they've been using patchwork QBs -- Shaun King, Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia.

Now, there's a growing chance the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to get their hands on a sure-fire franchise quarterback. That's Jay Cutler, who the Bucs tried to trade for a few weeks back. It didn't happen then and the Broncos came out and said they wouldn't be trading their quarterback.

But now it's time to re-examine that possibility. Cutler and the Broncos haven't put their differences aside and owner Pat Bowlen today admitted what the Broncos weren't admitting. Cutler officially could be on the block.

"I'm disappointed in the whole picture, not just disappointed that we might lose our star quarterback,'' Bowlen told The Denver Post.

The fact Bowlen is talking like that means Cutler could be available and the Bucs have to be watching. In fact, they should be acting. This is a chance for them to get the franchise quarterback Jon Gruden never could -- heck, Cutler would become the only franchise quarterback besides Doug Williams in Tampa Bay history.

The guy is 25 and has a huge arm. He'd be perfect in the new offense of coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, who wants to throw downfield. Yeah, Cutler can pout at times and he's not always produced at critical times. But he's far better than anything the Bucs have (Luke McCown), or any available free agent or any quarterback that's going to be available at No. 19 in the draft.

The Bucs have done a nice job of overhauling their offense. They traded for tight end Kellen Winslow. They signed running back Derrick Ward. The placed the franchise tag on Antonio Bryant and have a very solid offensive line in place. Sure, they still need some role players on defense and, perhaps, a speed receiver.

But the one thing that could legitimize the new regime of coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik would be to trade for Cutler. They tried to do it once before.

If that's an alternative again, the Bucs have to make it happen. Throw out a first-round pick and maybe another draft choice or two or even a player. Throw in some Cuban sandwiches, Tampa cigars or whatever it takes. Then, turn around and give Cutler a nice new contract to make him happy in his new home. The Bucs have the cap room to make all that happen.

A lot of fans were upset with the Bucs after Tampa Bay cut the likes of Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. They could make people start to forget those moves -- heck, they could make fans start to see the logic in those moves -- if they go out and get Cutler.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

OK, now what?

Cutler

Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos have met in person, which is what everyone wanted. And it didn't work.

The word out of Saturday's in-person meeting at the team's facility is that it wasn't as contentious as the conference call between Cutler and the team's brass last Monday.  Present at the meeting were Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, Denver coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders.

But the two sides appear to still be at odds.

It seems that Cutler's side doesn't have trust for the Broncos, stemming from Feb. 28 trade talks that would have sent Cutler out of town and Matt Cassel to Denver. Cutler's side insists the Broncos initiated the trade talks and the Broncos' side is firm that it is being truthful with Cutler.

That's where the rift starts and ends.

Denver sources say Cutler will not be traded. Yet, the team may be forced to trade him down the road if there isn't a resolution or even a cooling of tempers.

Will a third meeting improve the relationship? It seems that the two sides are at an impasse.
Denver's coaching staff must decide soon what it wants to do if the situation doesn't improve. If the Broncos do decide to end up shopping Cutler, it must be done fairly soon so teams that need a quarterback can discuss the situation and put together a package. The longer Denver waits to trade Cutler, if that is the end game, the less it will get in return.

It is clear Denver wants Cutler to be its quarterback, but Cutler isn't buying into it now. How will this situation resolve? Maybe both sides need to make concessions. Maybe Denver needs to make nice with Cutler. Maybe Cutler needs to forgive and forget.

This is not about who is right or who is wrong. It is about whether Cutler and McDaniels can co-exist and work together in a positive way. It's about the future. If the answer is no, both sides must figure it out soon and move on.

The Denver Post reports Cutler is likely to skip a team meeting Monday and the kickoff to the team's offseason workout program. If he doesn't show, this saga will hit a new level. Cutler will have officially missed a team function that is geared toward the 2009 season.

This drama is 15 days old, and instead of getting better it seems to be getting worse.

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