Broncos will try to move unhappy Cutler

Updated: April 1, 2009, 8:36 PM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The Denver Broncos stopped playing games with their unhappy quarterback. Jay Cutler is available in a trade.

There is no shortage of teams interested in the 25-year-old rocket-armed quarterback whose unhappy offseason began with Mike Shanahan's firing and has haunted new coach Josh McDaniels' budding regime.

Cutler
Cutler

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen released a statement Tuesday saying both he and McDaniels had been unable to get Cutler to call them back during the past 10 days. Bowlen said he spoke with Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, on Tuesday and came away convinced "that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos."

Therefore, Bowlen said, "We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."

Cook didn't immediately return messages left by The Associated Press, and McDaniels, through a team spokesman, declined to comment.

"Jay is never going to play for that team again," a source told ESPN.com's Bill Williamson on Tuesday. "It is a trust issue. He could never trust McDaniels again. It's over."

Cutler, reached by the Denver Post for reaction to Bowlen's statement, responded in a text message: "I'm not talking about it."

The Post reported that according to a source, Cutler had been planning on attending the Broncos' April 17-19 minicamp, and even had his car shipped to Denver from Nashville, where he has been staying.

The Post also reported that according to the source, Cutler said he has not received any calls from the team since texting McDaniels last week.

Cutler has been unhappy ever since learning that McDaniels failed to inform him about trade talks in which the Broncos showed interest in Matt Cassel. Cassel wound up being traded by New England to Kansas City, and Cutler asked to be traded.

Still, McDaniels had faith he could repair the strained relationship with his temperamental quarterback -- if only he could get him to call him back. On Tuesday, he became convinced that just wasn't going to happen.

When told the owner was going to try to trade his franchise quarterback, linebacker Spencer Larsen said, "It's shocking. It didn't seem like he was going anywhere. This is the worst-case scenario."

Cutler skipped McDaniels' first team meeting in mid-March and the first 2 weeks of the Broncos' offseason conditioning program, forfeiting a $100,000 workout bonus.

Cutler is halfway through the six-year, $48 million contract he signed as the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 draft. He's 17-20 as Broncos starter, although that's misleading because of Denver's dismal defense.

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In games where the Broncos have allowed 21 points or fewer, Cutler is an impressive 13-1, and that only loss was to Green Bay in 2007 when the Packers won the coin toss and Brett Favre threw an 82-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime.

Cutler set several franchise passing records last season, when he threw for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. In his 37-game career in Denver, he's completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 9,024 yards, 54 TDs and 37 interceptions.

Cutler was upset when Shanahan was fired as coach, and even requested that members of Shanahan's offensive staff be retained, which didn't happen.

He had started to come around, meeting several times with McDaniels and expressing an eagerness to learn his intricate Patriots-style attack that will replace the West Coast system he's been running since he was a rookie.

That all changed when word leaked that McDaniels had spoken with the Patriots about Cassel.

At the NFL owners' meetings in Southern California last week, McDaniels said the team was committed to Cutler, although he said no options, including trades, were being ruled out.

"I've always been optimistic," McDaniels said at the NFL meetings. "He's on our team, he's under contract, and I understand there's things we have to work toward in our relationship."

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The 32-year-old McDaniels is in his first head-coaching job after serving as offensive coordinator for New England, where he developed the untested Cassel into a top quarterback in 2008. He's never denied that "conversations took place" this month about acquiring Cassel, nor does he apologize for them.

"You take into consideration what anybody is trying to offer up," he said. "If the quality of the trade you feel, in the long run, improves your team, you analyze it.

"It's been made very clear to me it's my job to listen to a number of scenarios that would improve the team."

McDaniels even had fun with the feud, smiling as he posed for pictures at the NFL meetings with Cutler's No. 6 jersey when the old AFL teams showed off throwback uniforms they'll use at some point next season.

The Broncos haven't been to the playoffs since reaching the AFC title game in 2005, but the main reason was a lousy defense. McDaniels and new general manager Brian Xanders have gone about retooling the defense with a bevy of waivers and free-agent signings led by that of Brian Dawkins.

With Cutler on the trading block, the Broncos are down to Chris Simms and Darrell Hackney at quarterback.

Simms, who signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent deal ostensibly to serve as Cutler's backup, has thrown just two passes since undergoing emergency surgery to remove his spleen after a game in 2006. Hackney's next NFL pass will be his first.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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