Sports: Rick Jussel Column April 04, 2009

Trading Cutler turns out to be good deal for Broncos

OK, let’s get over it.

Jay Cutler is a Chicago Bear.

Much has already has been made of the loss of Cutler. And rightfully so.

After all, Cutler was a Pro Bowl quarterback. He did throw for more than 4,500 yards last season. He is only 25 years old. He always will have a cannon on his right shoulder.

And, oh yes, with him in Denver the coming season and probably the next, the Broncos would still be mediocre at best, still hoping to stay within 20 points of the San Diego Chargers when it most counted, and still hoping to stumble into a defensive free agent or two to clog up the defensive front.

Denver was going nowhere with Cutler.

Question now is, will they go anywhere without him?

Let’s take a step back and look at where Bronco Nation sits right now, before the always-anticipated NFL draft and still almost four months away from preseason drills.

Kyle Orton or Chris Simms is the new Denver Bronco quarterback — at least at this point.

The West Coast offense is out in favor of a nameless brand of moving the football that worked well for at least one team that specialized in taking late-round draft picks and making them superb quarterbacks.

The 4-3 defense is out and the 3-4 is in.

It is relatively obvious that the Broncos have a new way of doing things.

New coach Josh McDaniels has put his young stamp on everything blue and orange quickly. Whether McDaniels gets it all done in the near future, it is a certainty that he recognizes this is indeed rebuilding time, something the previous administration constantly denied.

McDaniels, if nothing else, came in knowing that many things needed to be overhauled to compete with the big boys of the league.

Though it may indeed turn into New England West with Orton or Simms at the QB spot and a variety of backup and situational running backs to catch third-down passes in the flat, McDaniels and his staff will win games only when the Bronco defense can actually stop somebody.

The young coach and new General Manager Brian Xanders have done a good job of signing free agents to shore up what was a terrible secondary.

They are also hoping the linebacking corps will be adequate.

What has not been addressed at this point is the defensive line. They have brought in a few free agents, but there is nothing there to suggest the defensive front is any better now than it was over the past several seasons.

Here’s the reality of the draft, unfortunately for Denver: There is only one quality middle-of-the-line defensive stopper out there, Boston College’s B.J. Raji, a 330-pounder with attitude and quickness. Oh yes, he recently tested positive in an NFL drug test for marijuana.

Big deal? Maybe not. The bigger deal is the fact that he already will be gone when Denver drafts 12th and 18th.

Denver is not going to find immediate interior defensive line help in the draft.

Here’s the thing to remember going into the draft: The Broncos now have five picks in the first three rounds. Thanks to that abundance of picks, Denver can move up or down in the first round, trade picks for veterans, pick from a variety of good pass-rushing defensive ends, draft a stud running back, or even to draft another young quarterback (Mark Sanchez of Southern Cal?).

And although the trade has not improved Denver to this point, I can’t help but think Bronco fans will be chuckling at the thought of this big deal a year or two down the road.

A month ago, McDaniels was trying to trade Cutler for Matt Cassel, his quarterback with the Patriots. That was going to be a virtually straight-up deal.

Now the Broncos have a Cassel-like QB in Orton, possibly two other immediate starters, and another first-round pick next year.

So far, so good for McDaniels.


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