The news that the Denver Broncos will try to trade disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler sent shockwaves through the NFL last night, and has the potential to rearrange the top of the upcoming draft ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals’ pick at six.
Four of the five teams picking in the top five — the Lions, Rams, Seahawks and Browns — are seen as possible landing spots for Cutler.
Only Cleveland “has a quarterback to offer who could give the Broncos anything close to the same value as Cutler,” writes espn.com’s James Walker. Former Bengals DT John Thornton floats the notion of a QB and first-round pick swap between Denver and St. Louis. In similar vein, espn.com’s Bill Williamson mentions Seattle packaging QB Matt Hasselbeck and the No. 4 pick for Cutler. And then there’s the Lions, who were part of the three-team trade talks that started the whole Cutler soap opera. Detroit is expected to explore every opportunity now that Cutler is officially on the block.
To me, the most intriguing possibility is Seattle. Hasselbeck would provide a stopgap while the new regime in Denver trains up a replacement like Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman. And while the Seahawks have needs, they don’t have such crying ones that they absolutely have to keep the No. 4 overall. In fact, some draft predictions have them taking Sanchez there. Add an RB like Donald Brown or LeSean McCoy at the top of round two and the Seahawks would have upgraded at WR, QB and RB this offseason.
The Browns have two QBs in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, and new head coaching and management that’s clearly intent on setting a fresh course. The trouble I see here is that Denver will almost certainly want a veteran signal-caller and picks in exchange for Cutler, and while Cleveland has the former, they have few of the latter. Thanks to all of ex-GM Phil Savage’s wheeling and dealing last year, they have just five selections in the draft, and that includes the picks they got as part of the Kellen Winslow trade. Far from looking to trade picks, the Browns have been trying to stock up. A package of players — say Quinn and Braylon Edwards or Shaun Rogers — might serve as a substitute, but that creates its own problems. The Browns are already uncertain at wideout thanks to Donte Stallworth, who is expected to be charged with DUI manslaughter today, and the rift between new coach Eric Mangini and Rogers appears to have been patched up. Moving players will only open more holes for a team with few picks to fill them.
Thornton’s idea of a deal between the Rams and Broncos is tough to see happening because of the six-year, $65 million extension Bulger signed in July of 2007. The deal had $27 million guaranteed, so a ballpark figure for the dead money created by the Rams moving Bulger would be $18 million. And they would doubtless be expected to give Cutler a new deal on top of that. Sorry, John. Nah. Ga. Na. Hap. Pen.
And then there’s the Lions. Reportedly, Matt Stafford wowed the team at his private workout, and is seen by some as a lock for the No. 1 overall now. At the same time, though, Cutler represents the bird in the hand, versus Stafford’s two in the bush. Assuming Daunte Culpepper appeals to Denver as a stopgap, he and the 20th pick (and perhaps one or more lesser-round selections) might be enough to get Cutler to Detroit. The Lions could then use the No. 1 overall on an offensive tackle. That strikes me as a smart play, if the Broncos will go along, but I’m just not sure if Culpepper is good enough for Denver.
WITH A TOP 5 PICK, THE BRONCOS SELECT…
Should the Broncos cut a deal with one of the teams in the top five, who would they pick? Stafford is the obvious choice, giving them the top QB in the draft to groom for 2010. However, the Broncos also hold the No. 12 pick, and if they retain that pick while also netting a top five selection, could earmark that for a replacement QB like Sanchez or Freeman and go defense at the top of the draft. The Broncos are switching to a 3-4 defense, and have already worked out Brian Orakpo. They also lack a top-notch nose tackle, putting the current leading candidate for Cincinnati, B.J. Raji into the mix as well.
However, one position the Broncos aren’t in need of is offensive tackle, having taken OT Ryan Clady in the first round last year. So any deal that would involve the Broncos replacing the Lions, Rams or Seahawks in the top five would increase the chance that one of the top two OTs, Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, is still on the board when the Bengals pick.