Breaking news out of Denver on Tuesday night: Team President Pat Bowlen announced that the Denver Broncos, “will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate [Jay Cutler's] request to be traded.”
It’s not often that a 25 year old Pro Bowl quarterback is shopped around the NFL, so it’s time to speculate over where Jay Cutler could play in 2009.
The list of potential suitors is already crowded, as a number of teams actively pursued Cutler the first time he was rumored to be available (otherwise known as Cassel-Gate). This list includes teams such as Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and the New York Jets. In my opinion, however, Jay Cutler should be shipped to the only NFL team that is statistically unable to do any worse than their 2008 campaign: the Bad News Lions.
Here is why a trade to the Lions makes sense:
1. The Lions Have the Best Trade Bait Available: The 2009 NFL Draft #1 Pick - If Jay Cutler leaves town, the Broncos management (and the rest of the world) knows that Chris Simms is not the future. No offense to Simms, who played mediocre football at the University of Texas, but if Denver plans on shipping away a Pro Bowl QB, his replacement had better have some serious potential. What better potential can Denver find than the first pick in the NFL Draft? Georgia QB Matt Stafford is slotted as the #1 pick in the majority of NFL Mock Drafts, and if Cutler leaves Denver then Stafford could be the new face of the franchise.
2. The Lions Need a Quarterback - This was news before Jay Cutler hit the trading block. As previously mentioned, everyone and their mother has the Lions taking Matt Stafford with this year’s first pick. I love Daunte Culpepper, but his Minnesota days are a distant memory. With the Millen regime being relieved of duty, Detroit is now officially in a rebuilding phase. The newest acquisition for any rebuilding team should be a franchise quarterback. A new quarterback provides stability at a skill position, a popular player to lead the team, and a new face for the franchise.
3. The Lions Have Other Draft Picks To Fall Back On - If trading away the #1 pick in this year’s draft meant that the Lions were trading out of the first round, then Detroit management would have reason to worry. Fortunately, the Roy Williams trade gave Detroit the #20 pick in this year’s draft as well. This means that the Lions can trade their #1 pick for Jay Cutler and still draft a top-tier player at #20.
4. Jay Cutler Has Everything Detroit Wants From Matt Stafford (Without the Wait) – Most quarterbacks taken in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft are expected to perform greatly… in a few years. Generally, there is a learning curve with NFL Quarterbacks (see big name rookie quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan), and until these players become comfortable in the NFL their team is not expected to win consistently. If the Lions keep the #1 pick in this year’s draft and take Matt Stafford, they should expect Stafford to be ready to lead the team after a few years experience. If the Lions trade for Jay Cutler they will receive everything they expect Stafford to become, but they will reap the benefits in 2009. Cutler is young, talented, and experienced, and his performance levels might be the ceiling for a quarterback like Matt Stafford. Acquiring Cutler allows the Lions to acquire the quarterback of the future who is ready to play right now.
5. The Lions Have Already Had a Phenomenal Offseason - Detroit has been incredibly active this offseason, adding a number of high profile players through both free agency and trading. Most notably, they acquired Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson via trade from Seattle and signed defensive tackle Grady Jackson away from Atlanta. Couple this with three of the first thirty-three draft picks in this year’s draft, and the Lions are poised to have arguably the best offseason of any team in the NFL.
6. The Lions Can Compete… Now – This is the bullet point that I will probably get harpooned for. Don’t look now, but the Detroit Lions could compete in the NFC North this year. The Lions struggled on both sides of the ball last year, but they have addressed a number of flaws with the previously mentioned offseason transactions. Take a look at their 2009 potential at each position:
- QB - Quarterback could be addressed by trading for Jay Cutler or drafting one (presumably Matt Stafford) with the #1 pick in this year’s draft. Undoubtedly, the Lions starting QB for 2009 is not on their roster yet
- RB - Kevin Smith is a talented young back with loads of upside. Also, the Lions signed free agent RB Maurice Morris, who has never had feature back potential but served as a great backup in Seattle
- WR - Quite simply, Calvin Johnson is a one man receiving corps. Johnson is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Detroit also signed a legitimate second option in former San Francisco standout Bryant Johnson
- OL - Gosder Cherilius (last year’s first round choice) and Jeff Backus are good offensive tackles while Dominic Raiola is maturing at center. The remaining holes can be addressed with later draft picks. If Detroit drafts an OT, look for LT Jeff Backus to move to the interior line. Selecting a talented Guard like Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson with pick #33 would go miles towards improving Detroit’s offensive line
- DL - Probably the thinnest unit on Detroit’s team, their defensive line received at least some help this offseason. Detroit signed DT Grady Jackson away from Atlanta, bolstering a defensive center which already included DT Chuck Darby. Detroit runs a 3-4, and a strong nose tackle is a must-have. Their defensive ends have potential, but this is another area that Detroit could improve with later round draft picks.
- LB - Detroit currently rosters two Pro Bowl caliber linebackers in Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson. Peterson was acquired via trade with Seahawks in March and Sims is one of the few Detroit first round draft picks that hasn’t busted (yet…fingers crossed). Detroit could add linebacking depth later in the draft, as their remaining two linebackers leave much to be desired
- DB - Detroit went on an offseason shopping spree to improve their secondary this offseason. They signed cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Eric King, and also acquired Anthony Henry from the Cowboys in mid-2008. Anthony Henry is advancing in his years, and could move to safety if he is unable to play cornerback any more. This move could actually help the Lions defense
This much is sure: Jay Cutler wants out of Denver and the Detroit Lions can offer one of the best packages available.
Read and react with what you think about Cutler to the Lions. Could he lead the Lions to victory, or would a Cutler era in Detroit lead to disaster?