Broncos Update Insider - 3/21

With the Jay Cutler situation getting worse just about every day, the Denver Broncos have to figure out what their options are.

Cutler has asked for a trade after meetings and conference calls with new coach Josh McDaniels haven't gone well. Cutler has been upset since word spread that the Broncos were trying to acquire Matt Cassel in a trade for Cutler. Cutler told ESPN.com he didn't think the Broncos wanted to fix the situation.

The choice the Broncos face now is either trading their unhappy quarterback or trying to work things out. Working things out with Cutler will mean both sides coming to a mutual respect, something that seems a ways off.

In reality, that might be the best option for both parties. Cutler is under contract for three more years. He could make life difficult for the Broncos, but he would eventually have to play.

Denver doesn't have many options either. They signed Chris Simms to be the backup quarterback. Since breaking into the NFL in 2003, Simms has passed for 3,094 yards and 12 touchdowns with 17 interceptions. Cutler had 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions last season.

Also, since suffering a serious spleen injury in 2006, he has played in one game, and completed one of his two passes for seven yards. Going from Cutler to Simms would be a major downgrade for the Broncos.

There aren't any fantastic starting options left at this point in free agency. Trading Cutler for a draft pick could get the Broncos another highly-touted quarterback, but Cutler is already a Pro Bowl player and the team would be starting fresh. Combined with a suspect defense, having Simms or a rookie starting at quarterback could mean a long year in Denver.

Although a resolution seems far off, the Broncos need to figure out if they can reconcile with their franchise quarterback. If not, the Broncos' offense would take a major step back.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Broncos signed guard Scott Young, formerly of the Browns. He had also spent time with Philadelphia since breaking into the NFL in 2005. He hasn't made any starts in the NFL. He will provide some backup depth on the line.

--Denver re-signed tight end Jeb Putzier. He is only the second free agent the Broncos have retained, along with defensive lineman Kenny Peterson. Putzier, a good receiver at the tight end position, was brought back to Denver last year when injuries struck at tight end.

--The Broncos' offseason workout program began March 16, albeit without quarterback Jay Cutler. The team generally has great attendance numbers for its offseason program. Many players prefer to work out in the thin air of Colorado.

--The Broncos first minicamp with new coach Josh McDaniels will be April 17-19, right before the draft. That will give the new regime a look at its current roster before making its final decisions on what areas to attack in the draft.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "At the end of the meeting, he wasn't like, 'Jay, I want you as our quarterback, you're our guy.' It felt like the opposite." -- Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to ESPN.com on his meeting with coach Josh McDaniels.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The focus has been on quarterback Jay Cutler and his disagreement with coach Josh McDaniels, but the Broncos have some other areas they will address. Most of free agency is done, so Denver can concentrate on putting together its draft board.

Although the team added many potential defensive starters in free agency, the Broncos will need to get some immediate impact help in the draft. They have the 12th overall pick.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Broncos still need plenty of help in the front seven, and that will be a major focus with many of their picks. The potential trade of quarterback Jay Cutler is lingering, but the team's top priority is still on defense.

Denver also has been active adding offensive players, and could add depth on offense in the late rounds of the draft.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Defensive line: There aren't many highly coveted linemen left on the open market, so the draft will have to produce some players for Denver's rotation. Most of the Broncos' free-agent additions on the line have been modest.

2. Linebacker: The Broncos have some good candidates to start at linebacker, but with more emphasis being placed on running a 3-4 scheme, quality depth will be a must.

3. Cornerback: Experienced depth is still an issue at cornerback. The top two corners behind starters Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman are Jack Williams and Josh Bell, who are each entering their second season.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--RB Tatum Bell finished the season with a good game against San Diego, but with a lot of tailbacks on the roster he is no sure bet to return.
--DE Ebenezer Ekuban played well in 2008 but it remains to be seen how he fits into the new staff's plans.
--WR Darrell Jackson didn't contribute much in 2008 and appears unlikely to return.
--S Marlon McCree didn't play in the final eight games of the season, remaining inactive even after recovering from a high ankle sprain. He doesn't appear to be in Denver's plans.
--C Tom Nalen is likely on his way to retirement after sitting out 2008 with a knee injury.
--RB Michael Pittman played pretty well before a neck injury sidelined him, but he said he feels good and wants to play in Denver again. The new coaching staff will make a decision whether to bring him back.
--QB Patrick Ramsey is a solid backup for Jay Cutler and despite finishing on injured reserve with an arm injury last year, could be re-signed. --WR Edell Shepherd was out all last year with a knee injury.
--LB Nate Webster started last year and played well at times. The new staff will have to decide how he fits in their defense.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered)
--RB Andre Hall (not tendered as ERFA) has played well at times and should get a shot to make the team in training camp.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--DL Kenny Peterson: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Jeb Putzier: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown. PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB J.J. Arrington: UFA Cardinals; $10M/4 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--RB Correll Buckhalter: UFA Eagles; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Andra Davis: UFA Browns; $5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--S Brian Dawkins: UFA Eagles; $17M/5 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed; can void to $9.5M/2 yrs.
--DT Ronald Fields: UFA 49ers; $5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Jabar Gaffney: UFA Patriots; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--CB Andre' Goodman: UFA Dolphins; $25M/5 yrs, $10M guaranteed.
--S Renaldo Hill: UFA Dolphins; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Patriots; $2.5M/2 yrs, guarantees unknown.
--OG Matt McChesney: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
--DT J'Vonne Parker: Not tendered as ERFA by Panthers; terms unknown.
--LS Lonie Paxton: UFA Patriots; $5.38M/5 yrs, $1M SB.
--DT Darrell Reid: UFA Colts; $6.8M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--QB Chris Simms: UFA Titans; $6M/2 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2009 cap: $2.71M.
--OG Scott Young: UFA Browns; terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

--RB Anthony Alridge (released).
--CB Dre' Bly (released).
--DE John Engelberger (released).
--RB Alex Haynes (released).
--TE Nate Jackson (released).
--LB Niko Koutouvides (released).
--LS Mike Leach (released).
--S Marquand Manuel (released).
--TE Chad Mustard (released).
--CB Karl Paymah: UFA Vikings; $1.55M/1 yr. --OT Erik Pears: Not tendered as RFA/Raiders; terms unknown.
--RB P.J. Pope (released).
--DT Dewayne Robertson (released).
--WR Cliff Russell (released/failed physical).
--DT Josh Shaw (released).
--LB Jamie Winborn (released).



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