Jay Cutler threw for a (then) Denver Broncos’ franchise record 4,526 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2008, but that did not stop the team trading the disgruntled quarterback to the Chicago Bears in April of 2009. The Broncos acquired quarterback Kyle Orton, two-first-round picks (in 2009 and 2010) and a 2009 third-round pick in the deal, while the Bears got a 2009 fifth-round pick along with Cutler.
Let’s start by looking at the Broncos’ side of the Cutler trade.
Orton set career-highs across the board in his first season with the Broncos, most notably in passing yards (3,802), passing touchdowns (21) and completion percentage (62.1). He wound up starting 33 games over three seasons in Denver, but he was replaced by Tim Tebow and wound up finishing the 2011 season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the 2009 draft, the Broncos used the 18th overall selection acquired in the Cutler trade on defensive end Robert Ayers. He has underachieved through his first five NFL seasons, with just 12 sacks, but he did have a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2013 and still has potential to become a difference maker.
Denver also got the 84th overall pick in 2009 for Cutler, but after a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers they wound up with the 64th (tight end Richard Quinn) and 132nd overall picks (offensive tackle Seth Olsen). Quinn played two seasons with the Broncos, catching just one pass in 29 games played, and was recently signed to a futures contract by the Washington Redskins after not playing in the league this past season. Olsen played three games for the Broncos in 2009, and has spent time with the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings since then.
Denver wound up swapping first-round picks in 2010 with the San Francisco 49ers, moving down from 11th to 13th overall, and after a trade with the Philadephia Eagles for the 24th overall pick and another deal with the New England Patriots they ended up with the 22nd (wide receiver Demaryius Thomas) and 87th overall picks (wide receiver Eric Decker). Thomas and Decker have emerged over the last two seasons with Peyton Manning under center for the Broncos, and they were one of the most productive wide receiver duos in the league in 2013 (179 receptions for 2,718 yards and 25 touchdowns between them).
With the 140th pick in the 2009 draft, Chicago selected wide receiver Johnny Knox. After a promising first two seasons, with 96 receptions and 10 touchdowns, a serious back injury late in the 2011 season kept him out for the entire 2012 season and he retired in February of 2013.
Cutler has struggled with injuries (36 starts over the last three seasons) and public perception during his time with the Bears, but the team showed their desire to keep him around after the two sides agreed to a seven-year, $126 million deal ($54 million guaranteed) in early January. The contract is front-loaded, with all the guaranteed money reportedly in the first three years, so the Bears can move on from Cutler with no salary cap hit after that point.
I think both the Bears and Broncos have to be fairly happy with their side of the Cutler trade, all things considered, and though hardcore Bears’ fans will surely disagree I think Chicago is the winner of the deal. It took a lot of moving parts during the 2010 draft for the Broncos to get Thomas and Decker, and the acquisition of a future Hall of Famer at quarterback to unlock their potential. On the other hand Cutler is still in his prime, and if he can stay healthy Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman could help him to the best season of his career in 2014.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.