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Bears, Broncos could both emerge as winners in Cutler deal

In an offseason of major moves, the blockbuster deal between the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos stands among the biggest.

The Bears now have their franchise signal-caller in Jay Cutler, and the Broncos added a bevy of draft picks to start reshaping their roster under new coach Josh McDaniels.

How does the trade impact the Bears?

The Bears' acquisition of Cutler fills the team's longtime need at quarterback. On the field, Cutler is the perfect complement to the Bears' smash-mouth offense. The unflappable gunslinger has one of the game's best deep balls, and his ability to throw over the top of defenses adds an explosive dimension that Chicago has lacked. While the offense still will revolve around the rushing talents of Matt Forte (316 carries for 1,238 yards with eight touchdowns), Cutler's presence under center will allow the team to incorporate a play-action passing game that features more vertical throws.

Last season, the Bears averaged only 6.1 yards per pass attempt and connected on just 35 passes of over 20 yards. Cutler, who ranked second in the NFL with 55 completions over 20 yards, averaged 7.3 per pass attempt and finished the season with seven passes over 40 yards.

Cutler finished third in the league in passing last season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl while connecting on 62.3 percent of his throws for 4,526 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. For his career, the three-year pro has completed 62.5 percent of his passes and compiled an 87.1 passer rating.

With defenses opting to defend Forte and the Bears' running game with eight-man fronts, Cutler will have plenty of opportunities to throw the ball down the field against single coverage on the outside. Wide receiver Devin Hester and tight end Greg Olsen are poised to be the biggest beneficiaries of Cutler's arrival, as they likely will see their number of "explosives" (receptions over 20 yards) increase.

Veteran tight end Desmond Clark should be a major player in the passing game as the main threat in the middle of the field. Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner likely will incorporate more play-action or bootleg passes out of a "12" personnel package (one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers), and Clark will emerge as the primary target on short and intermediate crosses over the middle of the field.

Forte, who had a team-high 63 receptions as a rookie, will continue to be an integral part of the game plan, but it is unlikely that he will function as the Bears' top target in the passing game. Cutler is more of a risk-taker than Kyle Orton, and with that, his preference for pushing the ball up the field will mean fewer passes heading in Forte's direction on checkdowns.

In 2006, the Bears used a combination of a strong running game and an effective play-action passing attack to tie for the league's second-ranked scoring offense (26.7), and the balance propelled the team to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI. With Cutler in place, Chicago has the weapons to match that unit's production.

Taking sides's Vic Carucci and Steve Wyche debate which team got the best of the trade that sent Jay Cutler to Chicago in exchange for draft picks and Kyle Orton. More ...

How does the trade impact the Broncos?

The deal brings Orton to the Broncos to compete with Chris Simms for the starting job. Orton doesn't possess the big arm or the "go-for-broke" mentality of his predecessor, but he's a solid starting quarterback capable of winning in the right system. He ranked as the league's 19th-leading passer in 2008 while completing 58.5 percent of his throws for 2,972 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Orton finished with a 79.6 passer rating, which ranked 25th in the league.

In spite of his numbers, Orton has a chance to be a productive quarterback with the Broncos because of the talented cast surrounding him. Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham make up a dynamic receiving corps that ranks as one of the league's deepest. In McDaniels' wide-open offense, they will create numerous mismatches in space and provide Orton with plenty of options in the passing game.

Remember, Orton was a prolific passer at Purdue and directed a spread attack. McDaniels' offense features several of those elements. With an array of empty sets and four-receiver formations being the staple of the Broncos' new offense, Orton should have an easy time identifying pressures and completing high-percentage passes in a "dink and dunk" offense. Matt Cassel thrived in the system as a first-year starter under McDaniels in New England, and there is no reason why Orton shouldn't be productive with the Broncos.

With a line that excels in pass protection (tied for surrendering a league-low 12 sacks) and an improved running game (adding Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan in free agency), the Broncos' offense should continue to be productive and function as one of the league's top units, albeit in a much different fashion.

How does the trade impact the league?

For the Bears, the move makes them the overwhelming favorites to win the NFC North. Cutler ranks as the best quarterback in the division, and he joins an offense that features a talented rusher/receiver in Forte. Though he has been derided for his 17-20 career record as a starter, Cutler is 13-1 when the defense holds opponents to 21 points or fewer. With coach Lovie Smith assuming control of the defense, the Bears might have the unit to give Cutler the support he needs to lead the team into the playoffs.

The Broncos lose a franchise-caliber quarterback but receive a slew of draft picks (first- and third-rounders in 2009 and a first-rounder in 2010) to address their porous defense. While it is unlikely that the team will compete for a playoff berth next season, the trade gives the Broncos a chance to replenish their roster and build a contender in 2010.

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