When it comes to the NFL, there is one cardinal rule, one rule that trumps any other.
Plain and simple: If you can acquire a franchise quarterback, you do it.
The franchise quarterback is the most elusive of NFL commodities. Few teams have one, and those who do never, ever, let them go.
Apparently, the Denver Broncos didn't receive the memo.
After years of looking for the replacement for John Elway, the Broncos drafted Jay Cutler, and it seemed (at least last year) that head coach Mike Shanahan and quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates had developed the former Vanderbilt Commodore into a worthy successor.
Well, exit Shanahan and Bates, and enter Josh McDaniels.
Suddenly, the one-year wonder (he'll be as much until he proves otherwise) Matt Cassel is more valuable to the Broncos than Cutler? The kind of sense, if any, that that makes is far beyond me.
We all know how the rest of this story goes. Bill Belichick, in a complete "wink, wink, nod, nod" fashion, traded Cassel and Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for less compensation than what was being offered by both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions. Consequently, McDaniels was left with a ticked off quarterback, his peeved agent, and no Matt Cassel.
The door has now been opened for other teams to try to pick up Cutler. The man himself has openly asked for a trade and has not been shy in letting the media know that he has no plans to play in Denver next year.
The question is, what will it take to pry him away from Denver? How much is a young Pro Bowl quarterback who's just coming into his prime worth?
The compensation? Three draft picks: a first rounder and a third rounder in the 1994 draft and what turned out to be a first-round pick in the 1995 draft.
Is Jay worth that much? Would it take three picks to "pry" him from the Broncos?
Those are the two questions that at least 10 teams (if the Denver Post is to be believed) are asking themselves right now.
Then you mix in the fact that Denver has said that they don’t want just draft picks, that another quarterback would need to be included in the package.
So just what might we be looking at?
First of all, let's throw out the notion that there is a team out there with a quarterback that would be good enough to throw into the deal.
I’ll answer by asking "If you don’t want either of those guys, especially hometown boy Quinn, why would Denver?"
So now we are down to just draft picks.
Would it be worth it for a team to trade two first-round picks, one this year and one next year, plus maybe a 2009 third-round pick, for Jay Cutler? I think it would depend on where in the draft order those picks are located.
For instance, let's say Tampa wanted to get back into the sweepstakes. They hold the 17th pick in the first round this year, as well as the 81st pick in the third round. Would it be worth it for them to trade those two picks, plus their first rounder next year, for Cutler?
I’d have to say it would. They are very close to being able to make a serious run in the Playoffs, and the key component they are missing is a franchise quarterback. And remember the rule from earlier.
What about Detroit, though?
Well, the Lions hold the first pick in the draft, as well as the 20th, 33rd, 65th, and 82nd selections. What kind of package could or should they put together if they bid for Denver's most disgruntled?
It's different from what the Bucs are looking at. The Lions have far more needs as a team and aren’t nearly as close.
I would have to say that a package that included the first and the 82nd picks would be a fairly decent trade for both sides. There would be no need for Detroit to give up their first rounder next year, as the No. 1 pick has a lot more value than does the 17th.
But what if Denver didn’t want the No. 1 and/or Detroit didn’t want to part with it? What if we were talking about the 20th pick?
Pick No. 20, while still in the first round, doesn’t have the value, obviously, as pick No. 1. But would it be prudent for a team with as many holes as the Lions to give up three draft picks for a quarterback of Jay Cutler’s stature?
Once again, I remind you to take a look at the rule from the beginning of the article.
As many holes as the Lions currently have, quarterback is possibly the most glaring. And frankly, Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman, the three underclassman quarterbacks available in the first round this year, don’t give me the "warm fuzzies."
I personally think that Cutler would be worth the three picks. Remember, a franchise quarterback trumps everything else. And Detroit hasn’t had one since 1958, when Bobby Lane was traded.
But hey, I don’t make the decisions for the Lions. Still, rest assured that the men who do, Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand, James “Shack” Harris, and head coach Jim Schwartz, are all asking themselves if Jay's worth it.
Now, this could all be a moot point, as Denver is denying that Cutler is available. But it sure is fun to speculate. That's what we do as fans, right?