Snap Judgments on Cutler trade
Jay Cutler is Bears first Pro Bowl quarterback since Jim McMahon
With No. 12 and 19 picks, the Broncos could move up and draft Mark Sanchez
With an aging defense, the Bears' window of opportunity is quickly closing
For the Bears, a team that hasn't had a headline quarterback since Jim McMahon was wearing headbands in the Super Bowl, the move to acquire Jay Cutler late Thursday afternoon was the kind of bold stroke Chicago has rarely been accused of during Jerry Angelo's tenure as general manager.
Having won the Cutler sweepstakes -- and rapidly at that -- the Bears have instantly upgraded their quarterback position to the best in the NFC North. They did so at a very steep price -- two first-round picks, a third-rounder and incumbent starting quarterback Kyle Orton -- but it's the kind of win-now move that signals Chicago felt it had gone as far as it was going to go with a middle-of-the-road QB under center.
Here are some quick-hit observations about the deal:
While the Broncos could ride out the 2009 season with Orton as their quarterback, getting the Bears' No. 18 overall pick might put them in prime position to draft Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman just ahead of No. 19 Tampa Bay, which covets him. The combination of Orton and veteran Chris Simms would buy the Broncos a year or so to develop Freeman.
Then again, Denver now owns two first-round picks, No. 12 and No. 18, meaning it has more than enough ammo to move up in the top 10 of the draft and select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. There has been speculation that Denver head coach Josh McDaniels sees a bit of Matt Cassel in Sanchez and has targeted him as the Broncos' No. 1 quarterbacking prospect in this year's draft.
Oh, the irony, given it was McDaniels' interest in Cassel that started this entire melodrama.
The Bears, long a defense-led team, might have believed their Super Bowl window of opportunity was closing and were motivated to give themselves one more shot at the ring they almost won in 2006. Chicago isn't ancient on defense, but middle linebacker and defensive leader Brian Urlacher is entering his 10th NFL season and his game has been fairly devoid of big plays the past two years. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye is entering his ninth season, defensive end Alex Brown his eighth, and cornerback Charles Tillman his seventh. If Cutler can upgrade the offense as much as Chicago hopes he can, the Bears defense might have one more strong title run in it.
With Orton going to Denver, is it possible that Chicago opts to re-sign free-agent quarterback Rex Grossman as Cutler's backup? At the moment, Chicago has only second-year man Caleb Heine, an undrafted free agent last season, behind Cutler. Either the Bears would have to sign one of the remaining free-agent veterans (Byron Leftwich?) or draft a quarterback in the mid to late rounds.
Getting two No. 1's, a 2009 third-rounder and Orton for Cutler and a fifth-round pick this year strikes me as the Broncos having hit the mother lode. In the long run, it matters greatly of course who the Broncos select with their two first-round picks, but they got a more than suitable bounty for a 25-year-old starting quarterback with Pro Bowl talent. Given that everyone knew Cutler and the Broncos had to divorce at this point, Denver couldn't have done any better at turning a negative into a potential plus.
The Broncos were wise to trade Cutler to an NFC team they will only have to face once every four years, meaning he can't really haunt them. Even better, Denver and Chicago won't meet in 2009 unless it's in next February's Super Bowl (wouldn't that be fun?).
Get ready to hear more than we care to about Cutler growing up a Bears fan in Indiana. I'm already sick of the homecoming angle, and I don't even know anything but the scantest of details.
While I'm sure Bears fans are a happy bunch about now -- they've got a Pro Bowl quarterback to watch for the first time since McMahon went to Hawaii after the team's storied 1985 season -- is there anyone in Chicago willing to completely overlook the way Cutler got himself banished from Denver? Any way you cut it, Cutler comes out of this saga having devalued his reputation within the league, and it'll be up to him to now prove he isn't the thin-skinned, immature crybaby he has seemed for the past five weeks.
Who are the losers in this deal? The Jets, who now might have to make due with Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge. The Bucs, who won't have Cutler to start ahead of Luke McCown, Brian Griese and Josh Johnson. And the Redskins, because they always hate it when they're not the team at the epicenter of the screaming headlines.
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