However, Cutler's case is much more interesting than last year's situation with the aging Favre. While Favre had no more than one or two years left in him when he departed from Green Bay, Cutler will be 26 years old on April 29 and could play for another 10 years.
Cutler can ride Bus out of Denver
It is highly unusual that a player of Cutler's caliber is available for a trade in the NFL. Quarterbacks such as Chad Pennington, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees have switched teams in recent years and had success with their new clubs, but Cutler is younger than all of them. Therefore, let's take a look at his value, based on production, age and contract.
Before any team calls the Broncos to inquire about what it would take to acquire Cutler -- if Denver even really wants to trade him -- it must look at his production.
Cutler has numbers that seem to command a big price tag. Take a look at what he did in 2008 and consider that the Broncos' defense was ranked 29th overall and last in creating turnovers with just 13 takeaways. They were 30th in points allowed. Overall, they had 44 starts from rookies -- the second-highest total in the NFL behind a Kansas City Chiefs team that was in a full-blown youth movement. In contrast, the Pittsburgh Steelers had only one start by a rookie all season on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
Other interesting facts about Cutler:
» He guided the second-ranked offense in the NFL.
» He was No. 1 in fewest percentage of sacks, with 11 in 627 pass plays. That equates to one sack every 57 pass attempts.
» He was No. 3 in the NFL in third-down efficiency, the "money" down. The average NFL team converted 39.5 percent of its third downs; Cutler converted 47.5 percent.
» He was No. 3 in the AFC in yards per pass play (7.3).
» He had eight games of 300-plus passing yards (five of those at 350 or more), connecting for 15 touchdowns in those contests.
» Sure, he threw 18 interceptions, which is unacceptable, but his ratio of picks to attempts was 1:34, which tells a slightly different story. Last season, Brees had an interception every 37 pass attempts. Favre's ratio was 1:23, and Roethlisberger's was 1:31. Cutler's career ratio is 1:33.
» Only Jacksonville's David Garrard threw more passes in the fourth quarter of games than Cutler, who completed 100 of 167 passes for 1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Cutler is not a finished product, but when you consider his age, production (54 touchdown passes in 37 games) and contract, he has serious trade value. If Cutler is traded, the prorated signing bonus stays behind with Denver. Only his salary, workout bonus and likely-to-be-earned bonuses go to the new team.
Here's a look at Cutler's deal if the roster bonuses are to be paid:
So, for $20.567 million, a team can acquire Cutler for three years ($6.86 million annually) and not have to come up with big money until 2011, when the $12 million roster bonus is due. That's a good deal for any team. Plus, it could then use a franchise tag on Cutler (assuming there will be franchise tags in the next collective bargaining agreement).
This year's draft class also must be factored into Cutler's value because he is young enough to play as long as any rookie can. The three top-rated quarterbacks -- Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman -- in the draft all are juniors, which involves risk. All three had fewer career starts in college than Cutler has in three pro seasons (37).
It will take time for any of these guys to develop in the NFL and, as we all know, coaches and front offices don't have the luxury of time. If Stafford is potentially the first pick in the draft, then Cutler is worth more than him on sheer football ability. Factoring in his age and tradable contract, Cutler is worth a second first-round pick.
This notion was confirmed Monday night when a former NFL general manager said to me: "Cutler goes for two No. 1 picks and a player, or he doesn't go at all."
Ask yourself this: How many teams would be better right away with Cutler under center? Detroit, San Francisco, Buffalo, Washington, the Jets, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Seattle, Cleveland, Tennessee and St. Louis all have to entertain that question. As my retired GM friend said, "It only takes one team to realize it and a deal could get done."
Cutler hasn't helped himself with the way he has handled his situation in Denver. On the other hand, a new team might like that he's pressing the issue for a trade and will not even factor in what on the surface appears to be a maturity issue.
So, what would the Broncos do for a quarterback if Cutler is traded? That's an even bigger question and probably more difficult to answer. Do they turn to the draft picks? Do they insist on a quarterback in the trade as a short-term solution? Or do they step back and conclude that they just can't pull the trigger?