Tuesday, March 3, 2009

AFC West Landscape: Cassel and Cutler

All kinds of things going on in the NFL free agency market since it opened late last week. Two of the biggest stories so far have involved fierce AFC West division rivals Broncos and Chiefs. (Though if you think about it, any combination of the four teams in the division are some of the fiercest in the League)

If you've seen any sporting news this week, you've likely heard that Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler is bent out of shape over hearing that his name was involved in a possible three way trade that would've brough (now former) Patriots QB Matt Cassel to the Broncos, sending Cutler to the Buccaneers and Tampa draft pics to New England. The trade (obviously) never materialized, and when Cutler got wind of the idea, he was understandably miffed that his position as undisputed franchise QB was being challenged.

In the days since the story broke, there's been a lot of reaction pieces, both sympathetic and not so much. Personally, my initial reaction was to take Cutler's side. I'm a fan of the kid. He plays very well, with flair, gusto and class, and he deserves to be given confidence in his job as the Broncos QB of the present and future. Too often I'm annoyed with NFL teams' impatience to wait for a player to develop on the field, at any position, but especially with a young QB.

However, I'm also starting to see the front office side of it. It is a business, and the GM and coach need to be able to put the best players on the field in order to get wins. If new Denver coach Josh McDaniels thought his former New England pupil Cassel was more suited for the job, then he's gotta do what he thinks is right. But in all fairness to Cutler, McDaniels hasn't even worked with him yet. And it's hardly clear whether or not Cassel's one good year in a great system on a great team trumps Cutler's constant progress on an average yet emerging team.

It seems that the best solution is for Denver to realize what they have in Cutler and stick with him. With a QB guru like McDaniels, it seems they can only get better. But on the other hand, Cutler needs to man up a bit and realize that your name will be shopped, that's just what happens, and it's nice to know that there's someone on the other end who's interested and eager to add you to their team.

As for Cassel, he was part of likely the Deal of the Offseason. New England sent him and LB Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for only a second round pick. There's a lot of back story behind it, but basically, the Chiefs undisputedly got a lot (an up and coming QB and an amazingly versatile veteran defensive presence) for a little (a second round pick). Speaking of offensive wizards, it'll be interesting to see how new KC head coach Todd Haley works with Cassel and how they can improve an exciting young Chiefs offense.

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