Blog Entry

The business end of the Cutler trade

Posted on: April 6, 2009 10:43 am

 While the entire city of Chicago rejoiced in the beloved Bears trading for Jay Cutler, there were several underlying factors that also played into the trade. Factors that don't necessarily apply to Fantasy Football, but to the NFL in general. I think it would be interesting to explore these factors.

Let's begin with the notion that Cutler is a crybaby. It's a complete myth. He's been painted with the crybaby brush since he asked for a trade out of town, but mitigating factors forced that issue.

Let's say you worked in a great job with people you trusted. Your primary boss loved you, and you and your immediate manager got along well. Even the owner of your imaginary dream job company thought the world of you.

Now let's say your wonderful company tanked in this economic environment after what appeared to be a promising year. The owner promises change, but promises YOU that your primary boss and immediate manager won't be affected. This puts you at ease as your world will remain the same, happy place.

But the owner fires your boss. It takes you by surprise. Days later, your immediate manager leaves the company.

How do you feel now?

Wait, I'm not done. The owner then hires your boss's replacement -- a disciple of a competing company, and he initiates a workplace that changes most everything you know about your job. New terminology, new rules, new enforcement. And, the new boss really doesn't care whether or not you like it. He won't massage your ego at all or make life easy for you.You've got to accept it or hit the road.


How do you feel NOW?

Anyone in this situation would look for a new job, and that's exactly what Cutler did. The Broncos fired Mike Shanahan, a move they had to make after their late-season collapse, then QB coach Jeremy Bates took a job at Southern Cal, then Josh McDaniels took over as the head coach and really got things in a bind when he tried to trade for Matt Cassel. Yes, Cutler is paid millions to be an NFL quarterback, but being lied to and then almost being traded away leaves some scars and definitely makes a good situation turn sour. How could he trust anyone in the organization again? Cutler might have forced the Broncos' hand, but it was justifiable.

So that set up the trade. Now let's consider why Chicago pulled the trigger.

The Bears organization is notoriously thrifty. If Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder are the guys chucking millions of dollars at NFL players, the Bears are picking up the loose change and begrudgingly handing it over. It's a family business for the McCaskey family as the principal owner, Virginia McCaskey, is the daughter of the late George Halas, who was outrageously cheap. If you need any further proof of the Bears' frugality, note that their "new" stadium was built IN THE BOWL of their old stadium. I know there are additional details as to why the Bears built their place on the grounds of the old Soldier Field, but it's not like they found new land in Chicago and put up a mega-million dollar stadium.

And part of the reason why the Bears haven't invested in a strong-armed quarterback before? Moolah. I can't say this with certainty, but I would guess that Bears ownership is happy with ANY product they put out on the field because the fan base in Chicago will come to games regardless of how the team plays. It's not like Jacksonville, Detroit or Oakland where the fans won't show up unless the team is playing strong football. The Bears could stink and Soldier Field will still be sold out. So as long as they have a few talented football players on the roster, players whose jerseys they can sell at $80 a pop, the ownership is happy. TV revenue and additional profit from ticketing, sponsorships, etc. is enough for them with very minimal risk.

The Bears were staring down the barrel of paying Kyle Orton a rather large sum following this season, especially if he played well again in 2009. Additionally, the Bears would be on the hook for a large signing bonus for the 18th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Last year they spent a ton on first-round pick Chris Williams and the guy barely played!

Cutler, on the other hand, has three years left on his rookie deal at no more than $1.82 million per year. The Bears don't have to sign him to a new contract until after the 2011 season, and that's assuming they don't franchise him first. Surely, Cutler's contract lasting three years worth about $5 million is cheaper than the signing bonus they'd have to pay Orton next offseason, and certainly way, way cheaper than the signing bonuses they'd have to pay first-round picks in 2009 and 2010.

Financially, the deal made sense for the Bears, even if they gave up two first-round picks and Orton.

There's also the matter of GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith being on the hot seat. Yeah, the Bears were in the Super Bowl three years ago, but haven't made the playoffs since. Rumblings emerged this offseason after Smith took over the defensive playcalling that if the Bears tanked again in 2009, the organization would clean house. Angelo and Smith were/are looking at a make-or-break season.

So now we focus on Angelo's job. He knew he had to do SOMETHING to help the Bears win in 2009, and finagling Cutler from Denver was it. As for giving up the draft picks ... well, Angelo won't be with the Bears to make their picks in 2010 if they go 6-10 in 2009, so what does he care if their first-round pick belongs to Denver? For him, it's a win-win situation because if Cutler leads the Bears to the playoffs, the pick will be a late one in Round 1, and he'll have saved his and Smith's jobs. Plus, when looking back at Angelo's eight previous years of first-round picks, the only one that really was solid was DT Tommie Harris. Most of Angelo's gems came in Rounds 2-5 (Orton being one of them). So the first-round picks had even less value to Angelo and the Bears!

Not only was the money right, but the compensation was too. And if it saves Angelo and Smith's rears and turns the Bears' fortunes around, then they're geniuses. If not, Angelo and Smith are looking for a new job and we'll probably see Mike Shanahan coach the Bears in 2010. Wink

Finally, the Bears probably knew that the Lions and Vikings were interested in Cutler. The thought of playing against Cutler INDOORS once a year and ultimately twice a year, with Bernard Berrian or Calvin Johnson catching his passes, would DEFINITELY seal the Bears' fate as the doormat of the NFC North. The Bears not only win by getting Cutler for 16 games, but they also kept him from going to one of two division rivals. Nothing like addition by subtraction ... or division, in this case.

Speaking from a purely professional viewpoint, I like the move for the Bears as it will force opposing defenses to respect their passing game, something that didn't happen late last season when Matt Forte saw a lot of eight-in-the-box looks. The offense won't be a dynamic passing juggernaut like Cutler was in last season, but it should still be effective. I'd be stunned if Cutler topped the Bears-best 3,838 passing yards in a season, though.


Since: Mar 20, 2009
Posted on: April 7, 2009 12:24 pm

The business end of the Cutler trade

All of the people that say the Bears gave up too much don't realize that the money it takes to sign a first round pick (a lot) and the difference in talent b/w a 1st and 2nd round pick (a little) gives incentive to trade away first round picks who are unproven for proven players.

Really, when, ever, has a 25 year-old Pro Bowl QB been on the market?  This was a steal.

I wish the NFL would adopt a rookie salary cap.  The current system actually hurts the worst teams who are forced to tie up too much of their limited salary cap room into an unproven player.  If I were a NFL GM, I would trade down just too keep some money to be able to sign proven veterans for less money.

And finally, this was a really good article.  Why is the best and most truthful coverage of this trade a "blog"?  


Since: Nov 13, 2008
Posted on: April 6, 2009 2:08 pm

The business end of the Cutler trade

Great points- you said what a lot of us are thinking, that somewhere in the Broncos organization, be it coach, GM or owner, they weren't too bright in all of this.  When you have a top three offense and a bottom three defense...and blow up the offense?  Fix what's broken.  At a couple of million a year, Cutler is one of the best bargains at that position, and even considering trading that for paying Matt Cassel over 14 million is amazing. There is a salary cap- call the Bears thrifty, cheap or whatever, but it leaves more money to acquire talent at other needed positions.  Same applies to the first round picks...until there's a rookie salary cap why even pay that much for unproven players.  Real nice move by Chicago, now take some of that savings at get him a top wide receiver.


Since: Oct 4, 2006
Posted on: April 6, 2009 1:22 pm

The business end of the Cutler trade

 One of the best responses to this trade I have read yet.

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