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.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen released a statement saying both he and McDaniels had been unable to get Cutler to call them back over the last 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.
Cutler’s 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 then 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 2½ 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.
In games that 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 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.”
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 AFC 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.