How Cutler-Orton trade went down
At about 2:30 p.m. Denver time Thursday, the Broncos gave the Chicago Bears the final terms of what they'd accept in trade for disgruntled quarterback
Whoa! Too steep, thought Chicago GM
A few things went though Angelo's mind, including the last time he was part of a staff that traded two No. 1s for a player. "We did
We really want this guy, Angelo told those on his staff, but the compensation is too much. So he called the Broncos back and offered two ones, Orton and this year's fourth-round pick. Denver GM
Done, Angelo said. Fair deal.
"It was high-stakes poker,'' Angelo said when it was over. "And I couldn't see anyone else's hand.''
In the end, Angelo rebuilt his battered, way-too-conservative GM image and Chicago got a potentially great long-term quarterback. (No other 4,000-yard passer has ever been traded at 25, or even the season after accumulating such a lofty number.) Denver got a better deal than the Broncos had a right to expect after their dissed owner ordered Cutler dealt, losing whatever leverage the team might have had. And Cutler proved he should write the foreword to
Aside from the late haggling between the Bears and Broncos over the price, I do know some facts that haven't been out there -- I don't think -- yet. The five things I know for sure, from talking to those in the middle of the Cutler trade discussions in the three days since the deal went down:
But as the deal went down, McDaniels, who watched every offensive snap of more than 10 Bears games with Orton playing, got more and more impressed with Orton's arm, his decision-making and his ability to extend plays when the pocket broke down. You can think and I can think it's crazy he didn't like Campbell -- who got Washington off to a 6-2 start last year -- more than he liked Orton, but it's the unvarnished truth. McDaniels thinks he can win with Orton.
But the Broncos weren't ignoring Angelo, and they weren't working another team for a better deal. McDaniels told Xanders and the rest of the football people in the building that they weren't stopping business following owner
And the Broncos had eight players in the building between Tuesday and Friday -- including first-round prospects
Now Angelo can know for sure -- the Broncos were going to make the deal with him unless his final offer was a fraction of those from Washington and Tampa Bay.
In all the years Bowlen has owned the team, he has never felt quite the disrespect from a player or coach that he felt from Cutler ignoring his attempts to speak to him to attempt to bridge the problems between player and team. And you should not underestimate how significant this was in Bowlen's Tuesday-night pronouncement that Cutler was being put up on the trading block.
So many tributaries. Such an interesting deal.
First, it should have never, ever come to this. Cutler-McDaniels was a match made in heaven -- a smart, tough, accurate passer with a great arm, in the hands of a Belichick protégé with a good offensive mind. Unless Orton becomes what Brady became in 2001, or
McDaniels could have sweet-talked Cutler a little more than he did. As one of the GMs involved in talking to the Broncos told me Saturday: "This should never have happened. This is bad for football. A great player talked his way off a team. If this trade doesn't work out for Denver, and Cutler plays great, which he should, Denver's going to look idiotic.''
Having said that, Cutler owns a degree of culpability that I believe is greater than the team's. As I wrote Thursday night, he has himself to blame for this trade because he couldn't accept that the team fired the two coaches --
Should McDaniels have lied about that? Maybe. But the Broncos once tried to trade
I don't write this morning to say Denver won the trade. Not at all. I'll never praise trading a 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard season and possessing the best arm in football. And I'll continue to say the Broncos acted precipitously. They should have let this thing simmer for the next two or three weeks, accepted no phone calls from any team, and then, the weekend before the draft -- if Cutler was still not to be mollified -- deal him. April 22, fine. April 2 ... what's the rush?
For now, I'll declare the two winners to be the Bears and Orton. The only way I'll call Denver a winner in this is if they use eight primo picks -- five picks in the top 2.5 rounds of this draft, and three more in the first two rounds next year -- to rebuild a patchwork defense. That's a tall order for any team because there's usually a 50-percent washout factor with the high picks in any draft. But McDaniels, to show Denver fans and his own locker room that he was the right man for the job, has to make chicken salad with these draft picks out of the chicken-feathers situation that resulted in Cutler getting dealt.
The Bears finally have the quarterback they've longed for. If anyone thinks the Bears paid too much, let me show you the 14 men who have been first-round picks for the Bears in the last 15 drafts:
Four of the 12 became consistent NFL starters, or better. An awful, awful track record. That is why Angelo, a career scout who has too often loved draft picks more than
"I've kind of changed about draft choices, particularly first-rounders,'' Angelo told me. "I don't have the same conviction on ones that I used to. It's the money, the totally unrealistic expectations, players coming out younger and not as experienced, players with too much time on their hands and too much money and not being grounded enough. I've become a little pragmatic about the first-round picks. They've been looked at like the Holy Grail for so long. Here, we had a chance to get a quarterback who's already shown he can play really well in the league. He's a guy with resilience; you've got to be resilient playing at Vanderbilt and succeeding John Elway. So we felt like it was a good investment for us. Time will tell.''
That's the sign of a smart general manager. I didn't think Angelo had this kind of move in him, dealing a marginal starting quarterback and three high picks, leaving his team without a first-round pick for two-straight years. But it's a gamble any smart GM would make.
Now for Orton. His first words to McDaniels illustrate the kind of sponge and -- the Broncos hope -- player he'll be in Denver, I think. "I just want to have an opportunity to compete for the job and help the team win,'' Orton told McDaniels.
Orton flew to Denver early Friday to meet everyone in the building, and later in the day was waiting at the airport in Denver to fly home when I reached him. He returned to Denver on Sunday night, and he'll be a full-timer in the offseason program, competing with
"It's all I've ever wanted,'' he said. "It's all I ever asked for in college [at Purdue] or here. As long as I have a fair chance, I can deal with whatever the coach decides.''
I found it interesting that Orton was so happy Friday night. Here he was, going from a team with a pretty good defense and a needy offense, where he was the no-doubt starter, to a team where he's the favorite to win the starting job, but nothing will be handed to him.
"It's the offense,'' he said. "I've watched it. I love it. The spread -- or at least, the multifaceted part of it -- really appeals to me. You change from game to game, and you do whatever gives your team the best chance to win that Sunday. That's the way an offense should be. But it counts on the quarterback to be smart at the line of scrimmage, and to make good decisions, and to be accurate. I think those are traits I have.''
Maybe, but he hasn't shown the accuracy in Chicago that he'll have to show in Denver. In 33 career games, he's completed just 55.3 percent of his throws. If that continues, McDaniels will have a new quarterback playing by December. But Orton will have two things he never had in Chicago -- time to throw (young tackles
As a coach, McDaniels has had great success helping his quarterbacks (Brady, Cassel) move the chains in New England. If he can pass that along to Orton, the offense shouldn't be what loses games for Denver. Now, the new coach who's taken the great gamble better hope he can draft defensive players. It's only his job that hangs in the balance.
Jay Cutler, to
"I didn't want to get traded. That wasn't me. I really didn't want this. I love Denver. I didn't want it to get this far.''
Jay Cutler, to the Chicago media, 44 hours later:
"I'm really happy to be here. It's like a dream come true.''
"If I keep my body in shape, and do the right things, I think I have maybe 10 or 12 more years in my career.''
"I still went and worked out. My teammates said, 'Jason, why are you here?' And I told them: 'I'm still the quarterback of this team until they get rid of me. You haven't seen the best of me. I'm not here for ownership. I won't miss days working out with you, and I won't miss time preparing for the season. Who knows? A trade may not work out.'''
"What's in it for us? If we're going to give you two more games, two more games of wear and tear on our bodies, two more games of potential career-ending injuries, two more games of concussions, blown-out knees, elbows, whatever you want to call it, then what's the price you're willing to pay for us to give that to you?''
Mawae's not alone with his strong feelings on the topic. Wait until you read in Ten Things I Think I Think what
The careers of Cassel, Cutler and Orton will now forever be entwined. Denver couldn't trade for Cassel in February, which led to Cutler's wildcat strike and trade to Chicago, which led to Orton landing in Denver.
What's so compelling about the quarterback musical chairs is the huge disparity in money they'll make this year. Cassel got the franchise tag in New England, and now, even though it would seem to make sense that Kansas City would try to sign him long-term and lessen the cap burden on the team, the Chiefs are in no hurry to whittle away his one-year contract of nearly $15 million.
At the league meetings two weeks ago, I ran into Cassel's agent,
If Denver sees Orton as a solid starter this year, it's likely that it will try to re-sign him sometime this year rather than let him get to free-agency. He's in the final year of a two-year contract signed with the Bears last winter.
Cutler is entering year four of a six-year deal. My guess is the Bears will let him play this year out, then sign him after the season to a rich, new deal, assuming things go well in Chicago. Analyzing what each team -- the Chiefs, Bears and Broncos -- is getting for its buck this year, based on quarterback performance from 2008 (league rankings from 2008 in parentheses):
Michigan State basketball coach
Stayed close to home this week. But I'm finding something interesting about city life. (For those who don't know, my wife and I moved to Boston a month ago, and we're still settling in. Enjoying it a lot so far.) From last Monday morning to Sunday night , I drove my car once, two miles to the Home Depot. That's it. I wonder if I need a car. I suppose I'll need one as time goes on, but I miss nothing about driving. Walking is good.
The Dallas Cowboys have joined the party.
For those who missed the news last week, we're throwing a benefit dinner, NFL hot-stove event and charity auction for
We're going to attempt to get him the aggressive, high-end therapy he desperately needs to try to resume a life of writing. Zim cannot write, speak or read as of today, but we're going to attempt to change that by dispatching him to a six-week immersion program at the University of Michigan, as well as getting him access to some of the best speech and occupational therapists in the East -- much of the costs of which are not covered by insurance. The goal, simply, is to get Dr. Z back online and back giving you the kind of insightful, no-holds-barred NFL coverage that has made him so much a part of so many fans' lives.
Again, the details:
The event, featuring Giants coach
Tickets are $225 apiece, or $1,500 for a table of eight, and are available by sending a check, payable to "Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation'' to:
Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation
All tickets are tax-deductible.
In addition, donations may be sent to that address as well.
For further information, please e-mail me in the box that comes with this column, or e-mail Barbara Neibart, at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's likely we'll have an online element of the auction, allowing those who cannot make the event to bid on some of the items.
On each of the six Mondays leading up to the event, I'm going to highlight an auction item or two to whet your appetite for the event. Let me start with these two:
• The Cowboy Trip of a Lifetime. Airfare and two nights' lodging, from anywhere in the United States to Dallas for a Cowboys game this season at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. But that's not all. The winner and guest will get to stop by the Cowboys' Saturday walkthrough practice at Valley Ranch, the club's training headquarters, meet a player, and get a tour of the training facility. They'll also get an onfield pre-game pass at the football game, with the chance to meet Cowboys owner
• Lunch in the Boston area with me and Patriots linebacker
We'll announce in a couple of weeks how you go online to bid for these and other items of interest. By the way, it won't all be sports items. I'll highlight a couple of cool things in this space next week.
Thanks for your initial support. We've gotten some solid donations so far, and several tables have been filled. Keep it coming.
1. I think the NFLPA needs to include Adalius Thomas in its negotiating committee with the owners. He'll keep it lively, and I think he'll keep it on point. The aware Patriot said this Friday about the owners advocating a 17- or 18-game schedule, up from the current 16-game sked:
"Why would you want an 18-game season? Why? ... It's the money thing. Stop. Just stop. If [NFL owners] want to cry about money, then open your books up to an independent audit to really show how much money you're making. If you really want to cry about money, open your books up, put what you really make in the paper, like you put our salary in the paper every year so that the fans can say, 'Well, they're making this much money, why don't they do this?' If that's the case, I'm sick of people talking about, crying about, 'Well, we need to make cuts here' ...
"I'm just trying to figure out, what's the purpose for an 18-game season? At the end of the year, when players go to the playoffs, it's been a long season, so now you're going to say it's a longer season? Are you just going to stretch out the payments over 18 weeks now? No. We're not doing that. You can mark me down on the injured list for two weeks. You can put that in your books. You've done lost your mind.''
2. I think I still find it very, very hard to believe in this economy that the owners are going to get the TV networks to pay them any more than the current deals, never mind an increase for the increased inventory.
3. I think what I'd be worried about if I were
4. I think I look back to the Super Bowl and it's all a blur. Has any Hot Stove League ever been hotter? In those nine weeks, Matt Cassel's been traded,
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things, but it's been tough to take a breath since the end of the season. That's because there hasn't been an end to the season; 2008 simply morphed into 2009 without a line of demarcation. There are more than a few coaches and GMs -- and more than a few NFL writers -- very anxious for the first week of May and beyond, when the draft will be in the rearview mirror and an actual offseason might commence.
5. I think you've got to know when you've got the upper hand with a team, and you've got top know when you've got to give in.
6. I think we are all owed an explanation, NFL Network: Why have you kidnapped Adam Schefter, where is he being held without ransom, and when do you plan to acknowledge that he has disappeared off the face of the earth?
7. I think
8. I think I'm dying to know who's going to try to sign Mike Vick when the Falcons release him. Two teams come to mind: Oakland and Tampa Bay. The Bucs are longshots, but I don't think new GM
9. I think I don't care at all if
I applaud SI.com for breaking the story, and it deserves to be reported. But what I do not applaud is the knee-jerk reaction by some NFL front offices about it. Some front offices are way, way too hung up on vilifying guys who did the occasional doobie in college while virtually ignoring the exploits of guys who got smashed at keg parties over and over at college.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Just caught up on the last two episodes of
b. Opening Day!
c. I've had no time to focus on it, with the move and the nonstop-ness of NFL life, but I'll throw these useless predictions out: AL division winners: New York, Cleveland, Anaheim (Tampa Bay wild card); NL: Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles (Arizona wild card). The Series: Yanks-Dodgers.
d. I'm enthused about the Red Sox, and I'll be in the park this afternoon, but there's something a little off-putting about all the little injuries and uncertainties (
e. Let's hear some more arguments now, after three more senseless multiple murders with guns, about how we don't have a gun problem in this country. I'm all for people's rights to bear arms. I'm not for nut jobs' rights to bear arms.
f. I liked when
g. My brother went to North Carolina, and I like what the Heels stand for, generally. I have no interest whatsoever in Michigan State. But I don't know how, unless you're an alum or