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"The Trade" - Analysis of the Jay Cutler Trade

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Denver fans are going to argue about which team won the recent battle between Denver and Chicago in the Cutler trade. It is my opinion that both teams came out better than before (a win-win), but Denver got the better side of the bargain. Chicago is a better team with Cutler; no doubt about it. But Denver is better now and into the future. Let's explore why below the fold....

Denver didn't trade Cutler to get Orton

Look at the foolishness of the media, much of which is reporting that Denver got Orton for Cutler. Many fans who hate the trade are focused (wrongly, in my opinion) on the fact that Denver got Orton for Cutler. That's not the focus of the trade. Denver wanted draft picks, and Orton was only part of the mix to fill Denver's roster. The real swap involves two first-rounders and a third-rounder.

Denver knew that they weren't going to get a Payton Manning or a Tom Brady for Cutler, and they weren't trying to. Any trade was going to demand at least two first-round picks. Denver would ask for a QB (knowing that the QB would be inferior to Jay) because a QB in a trade is better than a third-stringer to be found in free agency; Orton is in the last year of his contract, at any rate.

Orton was a toss-off for Chicago, and a roster-filler for Denver. Take Orton out of the mix, and fans would be thrilled at the number of picks we got. Add in Orton, and folks think we were cheated. The correct context is to say that Denver got a boatload of very high picks, and (as an afterthought) asked for Orton so we could have a QB on the roster to fill the void, at least temporarily.

In my opinion, Cutler is a better QB than Orton. I'll grant that, and still believe that Denver is better off. But keep this in mind too: Orton's record of 21-12 is better than Cutler's (he's also 15-2 at home!), his stats are pretty darned good when you consider he had no receivers in Chicago to help him, and he did get to a playoff game. I'm not saying Orton is better than Cutler. Rather, I'm just pointing out that Orton is adequate for now and that he wasn't the focus of the trade.

Denver just got two first-round picks from a team that often has high picks

How often have you ever seen two first-round picks in a trade? We just scored big. Not only did Denver move Cutler out of the AFC and competition with Denver, they made the trade with a team that is likely to have better picks than many others that approached us.

Some fans would have liked to see Detroit and their "top of the chart" picks. With Chicago, Denver's picks are cheaper and Denver gets a more serviceable QB than they would have had with a toss-off player from Detroit.

Denver also picked up a third-round pick, and only gave up a fifth

Do you realize how many first-day picks Denver will have over the next two drafts? Do you remember the last time Denver was this stacked on picks?

Denver can now take their wish list for this year and next year and double the returns in the first round. They also have the room to maneuver if they want to trade up or down.

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Denver moves forward into a much better position than before

Consider Denver's position (good and bad) before the trade:

  1. Denver had a young QB (full of potential) who was angered that his team listened to a trade proposal (even though the team rejected it). The player refused to return calls, refused to show up to voluntary functions, and demanded a trade. He was disgruntled.
  2. Denver had a defense in transition. The switch to a 3-4 and some FA moves helped a bad defense, but the team still had many holes to deal with.
  3. The offense was pretty much set. Free agency increased the competition at HB, and the team hoped to focus on the defense in the draft.

After the trade, Denver has made the following adjustments:

  1. That disgruntled QB that was demanding a trade? It turns out that it was a bluff. After team owner Pat Bowlen pulled the trigger, Cutler backtracked and said he really didn't want a trade after all. He goes into Chicago with a lesser WR corps to deal with, and the reputation that goes with his recent behavior. Denver now has three QBs on the roster to compete for a starting spot, and the muscle in next year's draft to get whatever they want (perhaps at QB).
  2. Those holes on defense? It's reasonable to assume that Denver can wheel and deal or pick whatever they want over the next two years. If Denver wants to, they can use the perpetual "extra first-rounder" strategy (made famous in NE of all places) where a team can often have an extra pick to trade in the first round. This is accomplished by trading a key player in the second to last year of his contract for a future first-round pick, while still using the current year's pick. Teams can amass first-round picks this way, but they can't start the strategy unless they already have several first rounders. Denver has four over the next two drafts. Dwell on this for a moment.

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Denver fans have not had drafts with multiple high-draft-picks for many years. It's been even longer since they've had two years in a row for fans to get excited about a number of high-end picks.

As important as a QB is, it's a blessing to be able to upgrade several positions. Denver can now fix what ails them across the board, and they can add even add depth. If Orton, Simms, or Hackney don't pan out, Denver can get a star from the 2010 draft (which I'm told is better for QBs than this year).

Remember this - Cutler had his heart set on leaving. Given his behavior, it was apparent that he was either going to leave or be forced to stay in Denver as a disgruntled player. When he left, Cutler took a fifth-round pick with him (which was really a Seattle pick anyway). In turn, Denver received a 1, 1, 3, and (just for icing) a QB with perhaps less talent, but a much better record to add to our depth chart.

To be frank, if Chicago had approached McDaniels on his first day in Denver with this trade, I would have expected him to listen to it. And you know what? I would have been just fine if he had pulled the trigger. Add in a QB that was demanding a trade, and this deal just became a "no brainer".

Chicago? They get a good, young QB. They energize their fan base. They had to mortgage their future to get him, though. Chicago's offensive line and receivers will make things tougher for Jay. In the end, Chicago made the right move, too. Instant upgrade at the most key position on the team, but a couple of years without draft leverage. They'll likely need to trade a good player or two nearing the end of their contract to be in the hunt for any other upgrades in the near future, but they have a QB to pin hopes on (at last).

Everyone wins (almost) -

  • Brian Xanders (Denver GM) - Goes into the next two drafts with more marbles than any other kid on the block.
  • Jay Cutler - Gets his wish ("Be careful what you wish for Tatoo", Mr. Roarke).
  • Josh McDaniels - Gets the backing of the man that owns the team.
  • Pat Bowlen - Denver gets a lot of publicity over the next two draft seasons (always good for business).
  • Bus Cook (the loser in this deal) - Loses credibility for himself and his clients in future negotiations. Loses big if Cutler can't raise the Bears and can't get the sparkling contract he would have had in Denver.

I still like Cutler. I wish him all of the best. He's a young kid caught in a crossfire between a selfish agent and a united front office. He's got a tougher road to a good contract in Chicago than he would have had with a terrific offense in Denver.

But I really, really like the Bowlen, McDaniels and Xanders team. They took an unfortunate situation and ended up with two years of magic in the draft. These are good times to be a Broncos fan. Very good times indeed.