NFL Nation: Helga hat

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A very specific visual passed through my head Thursday night as I considered the Jay Cutler trade from a NFC North-wide perspective. I thought of a man grappling for stability on the rough side of a mountain, slipping ever so slightly while creating 10 vertical lines in the direction of his descent.

The man wore a Helga hat and Viking horns. A bear clawed at his feet.

 
  Dale Zanine/US Presswire
  The Bears' acquisition of Jay Cutler has the potential to shake things up in the NFC North.

OK, enough with the corny metaphors. My point: This trade will prove a pivot point in the pecking order of our fair division -- one way or the other. Cutler will either lead the Bears to the NFC North title in 2009, imposing a bitter judgment day for a Minnesota franchise that chose not to pursue him, or the cost of his arrival will bury Chicago under a debt of unfilled holes and lost draft picks.

When you think about it, the Cutler drama produced an extraordinary scenario in the Black and Blue. Three-fourths of our teams inquired about him at some point. Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit all considered improvement at quarterback a significant offseason priority.

The Bears acquired Cutler. The Vikings traded for Sage Rosenfels to compete with Tarvaris Jackson. The Lions, burdened by the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, must now decide between drafting Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford (or USC's Mark Sanchez) and riding Daunte Culpepper for the next few seasons.

I don't fault the Lions too much in this situation. They recognized the rarity of Cutler's availability and pursued him accordingly. But they simply didn't have the assets, in terms of draft picks in the right spots and a proven veteran starter, to complete the trade. (Remember, the Broncos didn't want the No. 1 overall pick in the draft any more than the Lions do.)

It is the Vikings who faced a much more complicated and nuanced decision. In the short-term, at least, they must live with two institutional ramifications:

Podcast: Football Today
Jeremy Green analyzes the Jay Cutler trade for both the Bears and the Broncos. Did the Bears pay too much? What does this mean for the Broncos?
  1. They declined to pursue a quarterback who is superior to their own at a time when the rest of their roster seems primed for a Super Bowl run.
  2. In doing so, they paved the way for Cutler to land with a division rival that finished two games behind them in the 2008 standings.

All things equal -- and they are, because the Vikings have made minimal improvements to their roster this offseason -- it's within reason that Cutler could account for two additional victories in Chicago this season.

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