Commentary

Mailbag: Lions might be in Cutler mix

Originally Published: March 23, 2009
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

As expected, more than half of the 500-plus questions for this week's mailbag dealt with the possibilities of a Jay Cutler trade.

Probably the best way to answer the most questions is to say I do predict a trade but I just can't predict the timing. With more than 10 teams interested, this could be an interesting bidding war, and the trade could get pretty complicated. After all, trading a young Pro Bowl quarterback with one of the strongest arms in the NFL is almost unprecedented.

Roaming the hallways at the owners' meeting Sunday in Dana Point, Calif., I found the deal could get even more complicated. To trade Cutler, the Broncos must come up with a quarterback, which is why I put the Browns' Brady Quinn in play in some three-way deal. That switch could involve the Lions. They have the best chance of getting Cutler because they can put the first pick of the draft on the table.
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But the Lions have opened contract talks for the first pick with at least quarterback Matthew Stafford, tackle Jason Smith and linebacker Aaron Curry. Stafford now is part of this equation. If he wants to be the first pick -- which is pretty logical -- he could work on the parameters and make the Lions feel as though they can have him signed before the draft.

If I were running the Broncos, I'd make sure the Lions don't leave the bidding for Cutler. Of course, if I were running the Broncos, I wouldn't have let this relationship between the coaching staff and Cutler get this much out of hand. Teams that have quarterbacks shouldn't be shopping for quarterbacks. They are too hard to find.

Q: John, as a diehard Browns fan, I'm a little scared at your proposition of the Browns getting Cutler! We already have two guys to pick from, we don't need a third. What do you think are really the chances of the Browns getting Cutler and do you think it would be a good move?

From Josh in Eaton

A: I get the feeling Eric Mangini is just trying to get value for one of his two quarterbacks, which is why I predict the Browns will be a broker in a Cutler trade. Let's say they can convince the Broncos to take Quinn as the replacement for Cutler. In doing that, they would get more than just the second-round choice they might get for Derek Anderson. (I get the feeling Mangini is indifferent about whether Anderson or Quinn is his quarterback.) The Browns already got good value for Kellen Winslow. If a three-way trade nets them more than a second-round pick, they could get younger and add even more players through the draft. By the way, it does look as if Braylon Edwards could be had in a trade. The Giants would be one of the main candidates.

Q: When the next CBA gets done, is there going to be a rookie pay scale for drafted players similar to what the NBA is doing?

From Josh in Tacoma

A: Josh, I like your confidence. You're like me in the sense that you think a deal could get done. I think the rookie pool will be in play, and there is a decent chance it could be more like the NBA's. To get rid of the current rookie pool, which has been violated enough that top contracts average more than $11 million a year, the owners will have to give up something in collective bargaining. I think it will get fixed.

Q: I was recently in a conversation with a columnist regarding Lance Moore and how the Chicago Bears need to make a play for him. This would instantly make their offense better by adding a reliable possession receiver with speed to take pressure off the running game. Devin Hester is not a No. 1 WR, but the Bears seem intent on making him one. Moore is better than any receiver they'll see in the second round.

From Fred in Lodi, N.J.

A: Moore, a restricted free agent with the Saints, could help, but I don't see the Bears making a play for him, particularly with the loss of John St. Clair at tackle. Now, the need for a young tackle could eat up one of their top two draft choices. I've also operated on the belief that the team would like to get a cornerback in the first two rounds. Once again, the wide receiver position could be left with minimal improvement, and that's not a good thing.

Q: My Chiefs need a new OC,OG, and probably a RT. Why not give LeCharles Bentley a look? He's still fairly young, and was dominant before that injury. From what I understand, he should be ready to play. Where is Bentley right now? Is his career over?

A: Talking to Bentley a couple of weeks ago, I got the feeling that the Bills are interested in him. The Chiefs might be, too. Obviously, his knee problems would be a concern. With the infection he suffered in the knee, he doesn't have full motion, but he is confident the knee is good enough to play. He's worth a look. Bentley does need to get in an offseason program as early as possible as long as he is healthy. He's all football. He's running a training academy trying to help young athletes learn football, particularly young offensive linemen. Because of the problems with his knee, he wasn't going to be involved in the first, second or third wave of free agency. Now, half the free-agent list is gone. It's time for the Bentleys of the world to get their test drives.

Q: Maybe I'm a little biased toward the hometown hero, but I think it's a tragedy that Dermontti Dawson will not be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this year. I have to admit as a child I idolized him in college at Kentucky, but even more as one of the nicest and most humble people I've ever met now as an adult. Since you had a first-hand view of him on the playing field (and hopefully got to meet him in person as well) in your time up in Blitzburgh, how long do you think the man who changed the way the center position is played will have to wait to have his bust in Canton?

From Kyle in Lexington, Ky.

A: I think Dawson will make the Hall of Fame in time. He clearly was one of the best interior linemen during his era. We just have a serious backlog of qualified Hall of Famers. With an average of two first-timers making it each year, that leaves only three spots a year to chip away at the backlog. Stay patient. I give it three to five years. The important thing is that he probably is going to be a finalist every year.

Q: I am a Ravens fan and I just wanted to know how long you think we can keep Troy Smith around. I love Joe Flacco, and I think that it won't be too long before Troy is gone. Should we trade him and try to get something for him or keep him just in case?

From Sam in Baltimore

A: I don't see Smith getting any playing time because Flacco is the quarterback. There is no trade value because Smith hasn't had much playing time, so other teams don't know whether he is an accurate quarterback or the perfect leader for their offenses. Smith might have to leave in free agency in a couple of years to get a chance. He's going to play in Baltimore only if Flacco suffers an injury.

Q: Over the last few weeks, several credible NFL draft experts have said there is a chance the Saints will draft a running back with their first pick (Moreno or Chris Wells). Toward the end of the season, Pierre Thomas was playing well for the injured Bush. With that said, if Aaron Stecker returns and with Thomas continuing to develop, would the Saints consider trading Reggie Bush since they have so few draft picks?

From Jeff in New Orleans

A: A running back makes a lot of sense to me, even though Thomas has great promise in the Saints' offense. The offense is at its best when it gets the most out of an inside running threat. Wells or Moreno would be perfectly suited for that role. That would free up Bush to handle the big plays in space. The NFL might be a passing league, but a good team can't have enough running backs. The Giants proved the value of having three great running backs with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.

Q: John, I am a true Steelers fan like so many others. With James Harrison having one year remaining on his contract, do you see the Steelers making him an offer that he just can't refuse? If not, will he accept less than he really wants just to stay in Pittsburgh?

From John in Wheeling, W.Va.

A: I see the Steelers making him an offer he can accept. Harrison hasn't had that big payday. As long as he's not greedy, the Steelers will take care of him. Remember, they have been willing to adjust his contract. If Harrison shoots for more than $10 million a year, he won't get it. The Steelers don't pay the highest salaries at positions, but they always are fair. Normally, a deal like this would come together during training camp. Talks are really in the beginning stages. Harrison now is in his 30s, so he can't be as demanding on guarantees. He should be OK.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer