Cutler vs. Broncos: All About the Money
Posted by Andrew Zercie on March 12, 2009
Much of what has been written and broadcast about the rift between Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos is false.
That isn’t to say that I am privy to any new information. Truthfully, I know less than the writers, reporters, and broadcasters who have spent countless hours searching for an angle, or hypothesizing over what the next move is for Cutler or the Broncos. I am just a teacher who has an interest in this whole saga from afar. But there’s one angle no one has brought up yet, and it has nothing to do with Jay Cutler’s hurt feelings, a lack of trust between the two sides, new evaluations of Cutler as a player, or inexperience on the part of Denver’s new coach, Josh McDaniels, and the new general manager, Brian Xanders.
I am a big believer in the following tenet when it applies to sports, and in most areas of life as well: Follow the money, and you will get your answers. In this instance, it is pure and simple: the bottom line is the bottom line. Jay Cutler’s agent is looking for more money for his client.
Cutler was the third quarterback taken in the 2006 NFL Draft, behind overpaid benchwarmers Vince Young and Matt Leinart. By every possible measure, Cutler has outperformed Young and Leinart, neither of whom has established themselves as consistent starting QBs. Cutler was named to the AFC Pro-Bowl team in 2008. He threw for over 4,000 yards. If one was to compile a list of the top 10 current QBs in the NFL, Cutler’s name would be on the list. One could argue that Cutler is a top-5 QB in the league at this point. To top it all off, Cutler is just 25 years old. It is safe to assume that he will be a starting QB in the NFL, barring injury, for a long time.
But compared to his peers, Cutler is sorely underpaid. In terms of total salary in 2008, Cutler was 18th among NFL QBs. In terms of salary cap value of his contract, Cutler was 36th. There are 32 starting QB jobs in the NFL. Cutler’s salary cap figure is equivalent to being paid like the 4th best back-up. Three more years remain on Cutler’s original contract. Assuming Cutler continues to perform at a high level, he would count among the NFL’s best bargains in the coming years.
Of course, this is what agents are for. Cutler’s agent is Bus Cook, who was Brett Favre’s agent. Favre’s will-he-or-won’t-he retirement saga was last year’s Long National Nightmare. It cost him some goodwill with Green Bay Packers fans, saw him finish his career with the New York Jets, and saw Cook line his pockets a little more. Certainly whatever actual issues that exist between Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos could be worked out, one would think. All the Broncos have to do is show Cutler just how committed they are to him. Bus Cook’s definition of a commitment would be a new, larger contract. Simply put, if the Broncos pay Jay, he will shut up, report to training camps on time, become a leader in the clubhouse, and be the star of several puff pieces in newspapers, magazines and websites across the country. Leave him to suffer as an underpaid player, and who knows what will happen. It sounds a lot like Cutler being Manny.
As a fan of the Broncos, I like what Cutler has done to this point in his career. He has progressed quickly and seems to have a long career in front of him. I would like to see him stay in Denverand help restore one of the NFL’s premier franchises to prominence. But if he’s serious about being the cornerstone of the franchise, he needs to stop taking advice from Bus Cook, and end this power play for a new contract. The best thing for Cutler, moving forward, would be to work in concert with Josh McDaniels, who has been hailed as a sharp offensive mind. Continued discord between Cutler and the Broncos hierarchy can only lead to a trade, one that wouldn’t be beneficial for either side. Park the Bus, Jay. Earn the new contract on the field, not through posturing off of it.