Cutler thinks he is still on trading block

Updated: March 2, 2009, 2:49 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN.com

Yes, the Denver Broncos want Jay Cutler to return for a little sit down to mend fences after the team's reported failed attempt to trade for New England quarterback Matt Cassel. Cutler won't have any of it after the two sides spoke by telephone Sunday.

"They want me to come in and talk to 'em but I'm not doing it right now; I'm going to lay low," said Cutler. "The [Broncos] deny everything. That's a problem. We know for a fact they tried to trade me."

The Broncos have denied reports of their trade talks with the Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. They have characterized any dialogue as "inquiries" not initiated by the team, even though multiple sources have confirmed the Broncos' interest in Cassel, who was dealt Saturday by the Patriots to the Chiefs.

"He's not the only person in the last few days we've received calls on," new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels told the Denver Post. "We've received trade calls on a number of players, which is not uncommon this time of the year. I also think the sensitivity of the other trade that was occurring, with my relationship with New England and the whole Cassel thing, I think that stirred the pot even more."

McDaniels was the Patriots' offensive coordinator last season when he helped guide Cassel, a career backup since high school, to an 11-5 record following Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury on opening weekend.

Cutler, the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 draft, told The Denver Post he was angry that his name even came up in trade talks and said he still feels he's on the trading block -- something McDaniels denies.

"We don't want to trade Jay," McDaniels said. "We never did. He's our quarterback. We're excited about this season. And excited about what we're doing here in free agency to improve our team."

Sources say that the Bucs offered first- and fourth-round picks to the Broncos for Cutler, and that the Lions offered their second-round pick (No. 33) and possibly a future pick. The deal would have involved the Broncos getting Cassel from the Patriots.

Cutler was scheduled to return to Denver this week to continue learning the team's new playbook under McDaniels. A source close to Cutler said that the quarterback is "too stung" by the trade talks and has refused to speak with McDaniels by phone, let alone travel from his Tennessee home back to Denver.

"I'm upset. I mean, I'm really shocked at this point," Cutler told The Post. "I could see why they want Cassel. I don't know if they think I can't run the system or I don't have the skills for it. Or if they don't think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don't know what it is. I've heard I'm still on the trading block."

Team officials were in contact with his agent, Bus Cook, on Saturday and Sunday to deny their involvement and reinforce their commitment to Cutler. Cook said Cutler has every right to be upset.

"Because that's a vote of no confidence in the guy," Cook told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I don't care if you're talking about trading him for Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan or Tom Brady. That's a vote of no confidence in him, and that's how Jay sees it and I would, too.

"I don't know if they were actively seeking to trade Jay, but on the other hand, I don't know that they were turning a deaf ear to potential offers, either."

It was during their call Sunday with Cook that the Broncos tried to schedule a meeting that the quarterback isn't interested in, at the moment.

A Broncos spokesman told The AP on Sunday that neither McDaniels, newly promoted general manager Brian Xanders nor team owner Pat Bowlen would have anything else to say publicly about the matter.

The organization felt it had adequately addressed the issue by talking to The Post and didn't want to perpetuate the story, team spokesman Patrick Smyth said.

Cutler, who has three years left on his six-year deal he signed as a rookie, is by far the best player McDaniels inherited from Mike Shanahan, who had built a terrific young offense around the quarterback even while neglecting a defense that more than anything probably led to his firing.

Cutler told The Post he feels his relationship with McDaniels has "taken a few steps backward."

"I don't know if the relationship is irreconcilably broken," Cook said. "But I know that as much as he's meant to the organization and that ballclub, if there were attempts to trade him, then I think Jay Cutler is 100 percent right to be more than just a little bit miffed."

Cutler is 17-20 with no playoff appearances since supplanting Jake Plummer late in the 2006 season.

"There's an awful lot of smoke for there not to be a fire," Cook said. "If they were in fact trying to trade Jay Cutler, then I think that's a situation that's going to cause a very serious problem for the organization.

"If they weren't, maybe he forgives and forgets. But if they were, that's going to be a very difficult situation to repair."

Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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