The 2009 offseason looked very promising for the Denver Broncos heading into March.
The Broncos were signing veteran players like crazy, adding the likes of Brian Dawkins, André Goodman, Andra Davis, Renaldo Hill, Correll Buckhalter, and other key players from winning squads. Little did they know their fortunes would take a great turn all in a matter of hours.
First, Broncos' quarterback Jay Cutler caught wind of a potential three-way trade that would have sent Matt Cassel to Denver. Needless to say, Cutler was not, and is not, happy about it.
Then, Brandon Marshall was arrested for the fourth time since he has been with the Broncos, not even a month after he proposed to his now fiancee Michi Nogami. The charges were dropped against Marshall, but it appears the NFL will not let him off the hook.
The feeling in Bronco Nation went from giddy and ecstatic to worried and confused.
The Jay Cutler rift split Broncos fans almost seemingly in half. The Brandon Marshall incident left fans wondering what Denver will do without him for a potential eight games. All of a sudden, a team whose future looked so bright turned dark in literally a matter of hours.
Cutler has yet to publicly comment on the Marshall situation, but has wasted no time in criticizing new head coach Josh McDaniels for "trying" to trade him. Cutler's reaction has almost made the Marshall fiasco a distant memory.
The Pro Bowl signal caller has admitted that he is "hurt" and has hinted that his future in Denver could be in serious doubt. As Henry Gula reported yesterday, now that the Broncos have missed out on a potential trade for Cassel, the Broncos have no choice but to force Cutler to suit up in Denver at least for 2009.
As one reporter put it, if Pat Bowlen is willing to fire a guy like Mike Shanahan, why should Cutler be exempt from any trade talk? What has he proven in this league? On the other hand, Cutler has not had a great defense or running game to back him up since taking over for Jake Plummer as starting quarterback, and as a result has seemingly willed the Broncos to all 17 of their wins with Cutler under center.
That being said, would the Broncos be willing to deal Jay Cutler? Would Pat Bowlen ever approve such a move? Would Josh McDaniels go "all in" without even putting on the headset for the Broncos? Let us explore any and every option for the Broncos, and grade them on a scale of one to ten to see what Denver's best case scenario is to win in 2009.
1. Cutler and McDaniels work out their differences and Cutler remains in Denver
For Broncos fans, this makes the most sense. There has to be a certain willingness on both sides, and so far, neither Jay Cutler nor Josh McDaniels has been willing to give in to the other. Of course, that is only from the reports we have heard from "unnamed" and thus, unreliable sources.
Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, has stated that his client will be at the Broncos' voluntary mini-camp starting next Monday, possibly the most hyped practice sessions the Broncos will have had since John Elway joined the team in 1983.
The fact that Cutler is due to make $100,000 in bonuses if he attends 90 percent of the workouts will have some implication on his attendance, and it also raises questions about whether or not these recent rumors including Cutler have even been accurate at all. You would think that a player this upset would not show up to a voluntary camp, especially for such a low (psh) bonus.
It is curious that Cutler's $2 million house was just put on the market, and even more interesting that his parents put up a "for sale" sign on their front lawn as well. Cutler's representatives insist this has no implications on his status with the Broncos, as he has been thinking about selling his house for over a year. He also has a penthouse apartment in Denver, which is said to be his main living space.
The bottom line is, the Broncos need Cutler. And, quite honestly, Cutler needs the Broncos. The Broncos are much improved defensively, and have nine picks in April's draft. One can only think that this is the best case scenario for both parties.
2. Cutler gets traded to Detroit
Okay, so this would be kind of mean to Jay Cutler, but it would be a huge move for the Lions. Many trade proposals involving these two teams have been made, but if this were the case the trade would absolutely have to look like this: Jay Cutler heads to Detroit in exchange for the 20th pick acquired from Dallas, and the 33rd pick, first in the second round, as well as a first round pick in 2010 and a future conditional pick based on Cutler's performance.
The Broncos cannot afford the $30 million or more that would be guaranteed to pay a number one overall pick, so they will take a first and second this year, and a future first in exchange for Cutler. This would enable the Broncos to go after Mark Sanchez with the 12th overall pick, as well as possibly James Laurinaitis, Tyson Jackson, Everette Brown, or one of the upper-echelon cornerbacks with the 20th pick. It would also enable them to go after a Louis Delmas or Darius Butler in round two.
Still, the financial weight of two first-round picks in addition to two second-round picks, including a player like Mark Sanchez would be much too heavy of a burden for Pat Bowlen and the Broncos. Thus, the Broncos would not receive adequate compensation, and the trade would be unfair for the Broncos.
3. Cutler gets traded to Cleveland
In this scenario, Denver would send Jay Cutler and a third-round pick or Tony Scheffler to Cleveland for Brady Quinn, Shaun Rogers, and a fourth-round pick.
This trade proposal is by far the most intriguing and sensible one I have seen in the last couple of weeks. I'm not promoting the trading of Jay Cutler, but Brady Quinn has experience in the Patriots' offense (via his years under Josh McDaniels' predecessor, Charlie Weis), and Rogers would fill a huge need at nose tackle for the Broncos.
The factor with this trade is if the Cleveland Browns deem it necessary to trade away Quinn, even though he was impressive in limited time as the starter last season. He is a fan favorite, and it would be extremely odd for either team to make this move. It almost seems unrealistic even for a trade in Franchise Mode on Madden 09.
4. Cutler gets traded to Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers were the original recipients of Cutler in the three-team, Matt Cassel trade. So, perhaps the Broncos might trade Cutler to Tampa Bay in exchange for Tampa's first- and second-round draft picks.
This trade would leave the Broncos in another situation to potentially pick up a Mark Sanchez and possibly Tyson Jackson with their two first round picks. While that sounds great on paper, it does not translate well to the checkbook. Two first-round picks for the Broncos just doesn't seem realistic at this point.
5. Cutler gets traded to the New York Jets
In this option, New York would send the Broncos first-, third-, and fourth-round picks for Cutler
This is another situation that would significantly hurt Denver, all the while making the Jets a Super Bowl contender. There has got to be some bad blood between McDaniels and his former division rivals, and I doubt he would be willing to pull off such a deal.
This would also likely leave the Broncos no choice but to draft Mark Sanchez at number 12 overall.
A trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler appears very unlikely to me. Josh McDaniels has made it clear the team has no intentions of trading him, no if's and's or but's about it. The Broncos need a franchise quarterback just as much as the next team.
Launching Chris Simms into the starting role is not something I can see McDaniels, a very bright man, doing in his first year as head coach, virtually conceding the first season as head coach. If he were to take that approach, his tenure as head man in Denver could be very, very short.
In the end, as the cliché goes, it all comes down to winning. Josh McDaniels knows he could win with Matt Cassel, and he knows he can win with Jay Cutler. The Matt Cassel trade fell through, and while Cutler is disappointed and upset now, he really has no choice but to mend the fence and co-exist with Josh McDaniels.
Through this ordeal, Cutler will emerge with tougher skin, and somewhat of a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is in fact the main man in Denver. Likewise, McDaniels will have established that he is the law in Dove Valley, and that just because he is 32 does not mean that he isn't calling the shots.
Albert Einstein once said, "God is subtle, but he is not malicious." While it appears right now that the Cutler situation couldn't look any bleaker, it will all work out for the best in the end. Whether it means a change of scenery for Cutler or a revised attitude, the Broncos will not do anything to jeopardize the 2009 season in terms of willing, Pat Bowlen simply can not, and will not allow it.