The NFL saw its first blockbuster trade in years yesterday when the Broncos dealt quarterback Jay Cutler and a 2009 5th round pick to the Bears for Kyle Orton, 1st round picks in 2009 and 2010 and a 3rd round pick in 2009. The Bears were forced to deal significant assets in order to acquire Cutler due to the demand for his services from teams such as the Jets, Bucs and possibly the Redskins.
Chicago obtains a player who becomes their best quarterback since Erik Kramer in the mid-1990’s and most recognized name at the position since Jim McMahon nearly 25 years ago. His presence immediately ignites a Bears offense that struggled at times in 2008 but still managed to average over 23 points per game. Cutler is a talented quarterback already ranking amongst the league’s best players at the position. However the Bears clearly overpaid to acquire his services. It says here that Bears general manager Jerry Angelo paid the price of a Hall of Famer but only got a potential Hall of Famer in return.
It’s worth noting that the Broncos actually scored fewer points than the Bears in 2008.
The Broncos offense clearly suffers in the short term as a result of this trade but the team likely wins in the long term provided they can turn their draft pick bounty into solid players on the defensive side and perhaps a new franchise quarterback. Embattled rookie head coach Jay McDaniels escapes the wrath of the Broncos faithful only because Angelo’s previous ineptness at acquiring a solid quarterback in many ways forced his hand.
Not to be lost in the days news was the Bears acquisition of former Rams Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace. Only a week ago the Bears were in a mess at the tackle position but Pace’s signing and that of Kevin Shaffer solidifies the team’s depth at the position. Pace will remain on the left side while Shaffer will battle with 2008 1st round pick Chris Williams to start at right tackle.
Fantasy Football Impact
The biggest winners in this trade from a fantasy perspective are Bears wide receiver Devin Hester and tight end Greg Olsen. Hester is clearly the team’s most talented receiver and is capable of making the big plays that Cutler’s strong throwing arm provides. Olsen also vaults up the rankings at tight end with an outside chance of landing in the top five. Olsen averaged 10 yards per reception last year while Broncos tight end Tony Scheffler averaged over 16 yards per reception.
Whoever ends up winning the battle to start opposite Hester also comes out on top in this deal. The list of candidates includes Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis. Keep in mind that Bennett played with Cutler at Vanderbilt so he may have a head start on winning this battle due to his familiarity with Cutler.
With the team now lacking draft picks, any other wide receiver acquisitions will come through free agency. Bears coach Lovie Smith has a history with former Rams wideout Torry Holt and he would clearly provide a major upgrade at the position.
Cutler’s the big loser in this deal and falls out of the top five in the quarterback rankings, perhaps all the way down to the 10th spot. His weapons are greatly diminished and he moves to an offense that relies far more on the run and short passing game than Denver likely will under McDaniels.
Running back Matt Forte likely benefits due to increased touchdown opportunities and his rushing yardage outlook isn’t affected due to the counterbalancing effects of Cutler and Pace. Overall, his ranking remains in the top 10 but he moves closer to the top five.
If Cutler’s the big loser then it stands to reason that Kyle Orton is the big fantasy winner albeit with a rather large caveat. Orton picks up outstanding weapons in wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal as well as tight end Tony Scheffler, provided he isn’t traded as has been rumored. Orton ranked as a decent fantasy backup in 2008 but moves into low end starter territory with his move to Denver. Here’s the caveat – how long is he the starter? If the team takes a quarterback in the 1st round, Orton might find himself on the bench midway through 2009.
Marshall is the Broncos biggest fantasy loser with this trade given that a large portion of his production came from Cutler’s long passes and risky throws to him in traffic. Simply put, Orton will make far fewer of those throws than Cutler would have. Royal and Scheffler don’t likely see much of a drop in value given that Orton will frequently check down and both players figure to be featured in the short passing game.
The team’s running backs likely suffer but realistically none of them were going to be relied on from a fantasy perspective, at least until one of them emerged during the season, if that even occurs at all.