Hold off on the Jay Cutler trade talk -- for now. A source close to one team that has inquired with the Broncos about the unhappy quarterback tells me the Broncos have told them they're hanging on to Cutler and won't entertain discussions for him at this time.
That's a natural thing for the Broncos to say. They can't give Cutler or his agent, Bus Cook, a shred of evidence that they want to move him until coach Josh McDaniels is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt the relationship with Cutler is not fixable. But it's probably more likely than unlikely the Broncos will find the situation can't be remedied, in my opinion. So I do expect Denver's tune to change sometime between now and the April 25 draft, and I do expect Cutler to be traded.
I expect the usual suspects to line up for Cutler -- Detroit, Cleveland, San Francisco, Tennessee and perhaps Carolina, though the Panthers, without a first-round pick in the 2009 draft, will be at a severe disadvantage. But I don't think he'll end up in one of those spots unless Detroit offers the 20th and 33rd picks of the draft, and a player sweetener, straight up for him.
I expect the most fervent suitors to be Tampa Bay and the New York Jets.
The Broncos pick 12th in the first round, right in the wheelhouse for a draft expected to be full of very good first-round prospects because of the influx of so many good juniors; I'm told that this draft could produce as many as 20 junior-eligible players drafted in the first round. Tampa Bay picks 19th in the first round. The Jets pick 17th.
Those teams know that acquiring Cutler, if he's dealt, will require that first-round pick, plus more. I think both teams would pay more. For the record, Tampa Bay has traded its second-round pick in the deal for Kellen Winslow, and so has only the 19th and 81st overall picks in the first three rounds. The Bucs may well have to involve a high 2010 draft choice to get a deal done. The Jets hold the 17th, 52nd and 76th picks in the first three rounds, much better ammo to get something done.
The Bucs are veterans in the chase for Cutler, having pursued him the day before free-agency began, dangling their first-round pick plus something in a package for Cutler. They also have an offensive scheme under new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski that resembles the system Mike Shanahan ran in Denver, and a defensive coordinator, Jim Bates, who's the father of Cutler's offensive coordinator last year in Denver, Jeremy Bates. Cutler and Jeremy Bates were close, and those close to Cutler believe the Broncos' decision to not retain Bates is a part of his dissatisfaction.
The Jets proved last year they'll stop at nothing to get what they want. What they wanted last year was Brett Favre, who turned out to be a one-year fix that cost New York its third-round pick in the 2009 draft. What they'll want this year would be, they hope, a 10-year fix, and would cost far, far more. Owner Woody Johnson and GM Mike Tannenbaum will not be intimidated by the price for Cutler. I think New York, at the end of the day, will be tempted to pay more for Cutler than anyone else.
Would Denver be swayed by a package of first- and second-round picks, plus either of the young New York quarterbacks -- Brett Ratliff or Kellen Clemens? I believe it may come to that.
But first, you can bet McDaniels will do everything in his power to sit down alone with Cutler sometime in the next couple of weeks. If that happens, he might be able to save the relationship. But I don't think so.
Now onto your e-mail:
• WHERE ARE THE BEARS? From Raul Sagun of Waldorf, Md.: "You began your Monday article noting how active this offseason has been. In contrast, the Chicago Bears seem to have gone into seclusion, not really doing anything that will make them better. Is this just my perception? What do you think of the Bears this upcoming season?''
I don't have a great feeling. I'd feel a lot better if I knew they were formulating a plan to try to get Cutler. The Bears will need to fortify their offensive line with the retirement of John Tait, and they'll need to run the ball more explosively than last year's 3.9 yards-per-carry average.
• YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD, BRIAN. From Brian Emery of Tampa, Fla.: "Please tell me the Buccaneers will finally use all the cap room they have to grab Jay Cutler and get a good, proven replacement for Jeff Garcia (no offense to Luke McCown). The Bucs started with $60-something million in cap space and have only made a couple mid-level signings, so they must still have more than enough to get Cutler, right?''
Absolutely, and I know GM Mark Dominik's going to try.
• INTERESTING POINT, BUT LET'S NOT KILL THE GUY YET. From Florian Kubes of Montreal: "Very short question: Does Jay Cutler have the makings of the new Jeff George? Great potential. All the tools. Lousy attitude.''
George had the best arm in the league and a me-first attitude, and he didn't fit with a few teams because of it. On the surface, I see where the comparison comes from. But I think it's way too early to call Cutler the second coming of George. Give the guy a chance to blow off the steam and then let's see what we think of Cutler.
• WE CAN'T KNOW THE STORY YET. From Frank L. of Dublin, Ohio: "Hi Peter, love the column. I just had a question about Donte Stallworth's collision with a pedestrian. I know details are sketchy at this point, but can you tell us how it might play out if he's found guilty of a crime?''
The reason we can only guess now is because we don't yet know whether Stallworth was impaired at the time of the accident. If he were, that's the kind of crime that brings a jail sentence. In any case, if there's some guilt found, I would anticipate he wouldn't be around for the Browns this year. But again, we can't say because we don't know whether he'll be charged with anything.
• KEEP TRAVIS HENRY AWAY FROM NFL PLAYERS, HE SAYS. From Miguel of San Diego: "I disagree with your opinion that the NFL should bring Travis Henry to speak at the Rookie Symposium. Who's next Pacman Jones and Michael Vick? None of these players are on a current NFL roster. I believe it would be much more beneficial for them to hear from players who avoided the temptations and went about their business the right way. Why not have a Troy Aikman, Hines Ward or Steve Young talk to the rookies about their successes instead? They would already have the respect of the newcomers, and I believe their words would be much more meaningful. If you have to tell these rookies that you probably shouldn't have nine kids with an assortment of different women, they probably don't belong in the NFL in the first place.''
Ever hear of the phrase "a cautionary tale?'' Ever hear of "getting scared straight?''
• ARE YOU KIDDING? I'D PAINT MY CHEST FOR THE DEVILS, JUST LIKE THE SEINFELD CHARACTER. From Williams Balassone of New York: "So, now that you live in Boston, is it go Bruins? Or will you hang on to your New Jersey roots and cheer on the Devils?''
Devils all the way. I fear I'm going to be at a playoff game in Boston against the Devs and I'll not be able to contain myself, and that'll be the last you ever hear of me.
• I'VE GOT AN UPDATE COMING NEXT MONDAY ON THE Z-MAN. From Karthik Balasubramanian of Suwanee, Ga.: "How is Dr. Z doing? We haven't heard an update about Dr. Z in a while (or I've missed them). I miss his wry humor and the amazing wealth of knowledge that are evident in his write-ups. I hope his rehab's going well and that he'll be back soon.''
Have no fear. He is improving, and there will be some news about Paul in next week's Monday Morning Quarterback.
• NOT THE POINT. From Howard Halvorsen of Ruther Glen, Va.: "Sweet Jesus! Whatever happened to no more politics in your writing? Attacking Ann Coulter when she hits you correctly on a sensitive subject is pointless. Conservatives dominate the AM waves but there are only two conservative newspapers in our wonderful country: the Washington Times and Human Events. And no, don't bother trying to sell me a long list of newspapers just to the right of Howard Dean as conservative. Just because they have no Reagan does not mean the meaning of the word has changed.''
The reasons newspapers are dying has absolutely nothing to do with their political leanings. It has to do with the internet, the economy and financial losses that can't be stemmed. Don't tell me that 24 million conservatives -- all at once in the past year -- decided to cancel their newspaper subscriptions and to stop advertising in the newspapers. It's a silly premise.
• A LITTLE BIT CLOSER TO THE POINT. From Seth Shankle of Hebron, Ky.: "I thought you were done with the political pieces in the MMQB. It's not Ann Coulter's fault that liberal newspapers are failing. It's more of a survival of the fittest concept than anything. If you don't adapt your business model then you will die. I know the liberals would rather everyone that simply try and enjoy the spoils of those that actually succeed, but that is not how it works. Sure it's bad for anyone to lose their job, but no one is keeping them from learning new and different skills to better their career prospects. Other than that, keep up the great NFL-oriented writing.''
Good points, but these things happened overnight. Just as auto workers doing the same thing for 30 years have trouble adapting to a new occupation late in life, so will journalists.
• ONE MORE. From Dan Riffle of Akron: "Let's call it like it is, Peter: With the advent of the Internet, the once mighty newspaper is the new buggy whip manufacturer. And liberal rags produce a buggy whip that half their consumers find distasteful. Almost distasteful as having to read errant business viewpoints in a sports column.''
Look: My only point was that Ann Coulter reveled in the fact that journalists, editors, photographers and front-office types at newspapers are losing their jobs in mega-droves because, according to her, they work for liberal rags and the country is waking up to smite them. It is ridiculous and ignores the facts of the free-falling economy and the internet making newsgathering free. How can a thinking person dispute that?