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Jay the Jet…Don’t Hold Your Breath

As New York Jets fans such as yourselves keep an eye on all the NFL Hot Stove action, one story in particular that allows Jets fans to dream is the Jay Cutler situation out in Denver. After new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels attempted to trade for his former protégé Matt Cassell, his current quarterback became furious that the organization wasn’t behind him, and the relationship has only gotten worse over the past few weeks. Cutler has officially asked the Broncos for a trade, and there are plenty of Jets fans out their that already have their #6 Jets jersey on pre-order. While the Jets can use Cutler, they remain a long shot to acquire him.
Cutler has more pedigree and experience than current Jets quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff combined. The Broncos traded up to the 11th spot to grab Cutler, who was the third QB taken in that draft, behind Vince Young and Matt Leinert. Right now Cutler is the only one with a starting job and has the best prospects for the future. His dismantling of the Jets defense in a gusty Meadowlands back in December proved to be the beginning of the end of the Jets season. The elements may not faze him, but he couldn’t steer the Broncos from a free fall of their own as the Broncos missed the playoffs. But he will be just 26 at the start of the 2009 season has shown steady improvement in his three years in the league, starting all 32 games for the Broncos in the last two seasons. No one is arguing that he wouldn’t look great in Green and White and make the Jets legitimate contenders in the ultra-competitive AFC East, but there are several other teams looking to snag Cutler, including his current employers.
Cutler isn’t the first athlete to demand a trade, and it doesn’t mean he will get one. With no other top-tier quarterback available, the Broncos could decide to keep Cutler and hope the bridge between coach and QB rebuilds over the season. It makes the most sense from a talent standpoint. And if he continues the spoiled baby routine (will Cutler always go to pieces if there is a trade rumor about him?), other clubs could sour on him or try to lowball the Broncos. The coach or owner Pat Bowlen could decide that they won’t be bossed around by a player and refuse to give in to his requests.
But locker room tension, especially if it revolves around the quarterback, can rip a team apart, and Cutler could be past the point of no return. If the Broncos realize they are out of options, the Detroit Lions will be the first team to give Denver a call. The Lions, fresh off an 0-16 season are desperate to gain any sort of respectability, and while Cutler won’t solve all their problems, it saves new head coach Jim Schwartz from developing a quarterback (like Matt Stafford) and frees up the first overall pick for another position, like offensive tackle or linebacker. The Lions own the 20th pick from the Cowboys, which the Lions can package with other picks or players, allowing the Lions to take a big leap forward while still getting some player in the draft that can contribute. Cutler will be a hero in Detroit before he even steps on the field.
Detroit isn’t the only team looking for a QB. The St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Minnesota Vikings all make logical landing spots for Cutler. Tampa was involved in the Cutler talks that started this mess, Dan Snyder can never say no to adding a big name (no matter the cost or if it will actually benefit the team) and Jacksonville and Frisco have top-10 picks to offer. The Broncos might also favor an NFC team so they only have to face Cutler once every four years.
The Jets have two other big holes to fill on their team, at wide receiver and pass rushing defensive end. Both positions are rather deep in this years draft, with impact players expected to be available at #17. Getting Cutler will certainly cost the Jets that pick and more (most likely a defensive player as the Broncos are in dire need of a rebuilt defense) which could hinder the Jets chances of securing players at the other tow need positions. Remember that Jets head coach Rex Ryan came from the Baltimore system that last year got to the AFC title game with a rookie quarterback (and their backup was the unheralded Troy Smith, the presumed starter until and injury before week 1) and won the Super Bowl in 2000 led by Trent Dilfer, hardly a show-stopper as a quarterback. Trading for a big arm like Cutler would go against that philosophy (although Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum has traded for a big name QB before, not too long ago in fact) and they will likely stick to their guns, letting Clemens and Ratliff battle it out in preseason (every time you hear the Jets talk about Ratliff, they fawn over him like he’s the next Tony Romo, let’s hope they’re right) as the leader of a run-first, hard-hitting defensive team. I won’t complain if the Jets get Cutler, I’m just not setting myself up for the disappointment of seeing him on another team. And as Jets fans know, there will be plenty of time for disappointments during the season.

Jason Levy

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