Cutler has traits Vikings seek

The Vikings were reportedly involved in trade talks for Denver quarterback Jay Culter. Why? Because he has many of the desired traits that the Vikings look for when obtaining a player via free agency or trade, and they have shown they aren't afraid to make the big move. We break down the skills, the contract, the quotes and the statistics that would seem to make Cutler a desirable option.

The Denver Broncos' potential loss could be Vikings fans' biggest gain in quite some time, maybe since the team drafted Randy Moss with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft.

According to the Denver Post, the Vikings were among a select group of teams that were interested in trading for disgruntled Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler has publicly stated that he was irked by the Broncos' attempt to trade him recently in an attempt to get Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots.

"I'm upset. I mean, I'm really shocked at this point," Cutler was quoted as saying in the Post. "I could see why they want Cassel. I don't know if they think I can't run the system or I don't have the skills for it. I just don't get it. Or if they don't think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don't know what it is. I've heard I'm still on the trading block."

Sports Illustrated reported that Cutler asked for a trade in January, so the animosity between Cutler and the Broncos could run deeper, but Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, backed the notion that his client was upset with being on the trading block.

"That's a vote of no confidence in him, and that's how Jay sees it and I would, too," Cook told the Associated Press. "I don't know if they were actively seeking to trade Jay, but on the other hand I don't know that they were turning a deaf ear to potential offers, either."

Which brings us to the Vikings, who took full advantage of a similar situation last year. When defensive end Jared Allen had his fill of Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, who is no longer in the league, the Vikings moved in and quietly began negotiating a trade for Allen.

While other teams entered the equation late, the Vikings had the groundwork for a trade established and offered the most to the Chiefs to get Allen. By the time the trade was complete, the aggressive front office had surrendered a first- and two third-round picks to secure Allen. In order to get him long term, they had to sign him to a six-year contract that could be worth more than $73 million and has more than $15 million in guarantees.

Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel, referred that trade last Friday when asked about the possibilities of being aggressive to get a franchise quarterback, even in the wake of a trade to land Sage Rosenfels.

"If there's an opportunity that ever comes there, like we evaluate that every year, we evaluated that even last year as we go through this thing. When there's a specific player that you feel that strong about, regardless of if it's in free agency or it's through a trade or in the draft, then you go ahead and try to make everything work to get that player here," Spielman said. "An example last year was we thought it was a unique opportunity to get a Jared Allen. We gave up a first and our two thirds to go get him. But how many times do you have an opportunity to get a 25-year-old pass rusher in the prime of his career?

"So those opportunities don't come every year, and like I said, if there is – whatever position comes out there that something comes available that fits what we do, that fits the type of players that we try to bring in here and is a unique player, where it's hard to get a player like that at a specific skill, then you've got to go out and do what you have to do."

Even as the Vikings introduced Rosenfels to the Minnesota media, head coach Brad Childress declined to rule out the possibility of going after another quarterback, and a league source told Viking Update at the Senior Bowl that he expected the Vikings to sign two quarterbacks this offseason (it's unclear if he envisioned Cutler being one of them and he declined to name the possibilities).

Cutler would seem to fit what the Vikings do. Denver fired longtime head coach Mike Shanahan and hired former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after the season. That likely signals a change in the Broncos' offensive system.

Cutler cut his NFL teeth learning Shanahan's version of the West Coast offense, a system that has similarities to the Vikings' system.

Cutler also fits the Vikings' desired age parameters. Spielman and Childress have talked about getting 26- and 27-year-old players coming off of their first contracts in free agency. Cutler will turn 26 in April, but he has a very manageable contract.

He has three years remaining on his deal, with the next two years extremely friendly for a quarterback that was a Pro Bowler this past season. His 2009 salary is only $1.035 million and in 2010 it's only $1.443 million with a $4 million roster bonus, according to a league source. It's not until 2011 that Cutler starts getting checks on par with the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. In the final year of his current contract, he has a $1.81 million salary but a hefty $12 million roster bonus.

It's unclear if the Vikings would want to extend Cutler's contract and spread the hits to the salary cap out more evenly if they were to complete a trade for him. (At this point, it's uncertain if there will even be a salary cap in 2011 with the lack of an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.)

Finally, the big selling point on Cutler has to be his production in Shanahan's offense.

Cutler took over the starting role during his rookie season and continued to blossom in his second and third seasons. In 2007, he completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,497 yards, 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an 88.1 rating. Last year, he competed 62.3 percent of his passes for 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions for an 86.0 rating.

Since implementing the West Coast offense under Childress, the Vikings haven't passed for 3,500 yards as a team in any of the past three seasons.

For many reasons, Cutler might be the one possible move out there that rejuvenates a Vikings fan base that seems to be disillusioned with the offense in particular and the team's struggles at quarterback. Cutler has the credentials, the contract, the age parameters and the desire to find a new team.

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