Commentary: Cutler under the microscope

The Jay Cutler trade will be dissected from multiple angles over the next year. Ultimately, the wisdom of the trade will be determined by the Bears' ability to win, and they have plenty of holes left to fill without many high-round draft choices to do that.

The trade of Jay Cutler to division rival Chicago has a lot of fans shaking their heads in disbelief. There doesn't seem to be a full consensus whether Cutler is a savior or a curse. All that is certain is that he came with a hefty price.

It should be noted that there were some in the local Twin Cities media that were against the Vikings trading for Jared Allen – giving up a first-round and two third-round picks in the 2008 draft. The Bears gave up significantly more – a first-round pick in this month's draft and 2010, a third-round pick this year and starting QB Kyle Orton. While not exactly a Herschel Walker sort of ransom, many thought the days of the multiple first-round compensation packages were over.

Clearly they were wrong. Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo has had a consistent track record of building through the draft and spending free-agent money on in-house players – last offseason the Bears committed a whopping $187 million in new contracts for existing Bears players. This is a dramatic departure from that and one that is a roll of the dice that will greatly effect the Bears' short-term and potentially long-term future. The trade for Cutler, combined with the signing of future Hall of Fame left tackle Orlando Pace, sends the undeniable signal that the Bears want to tip the balance of power in the NFC North and do it now.

The reaction among Bears fans is one of delight, much in the same way Vikings fans celebrated the trade for Allen and, for those with long-term memories, the trade for Walker. However, the players make it a different story. The Bears historically have been a franchise known for its toughness. Orton fit into that mode. He would play through injury and, unlike Rex Grossman – who was universally despised by Bears fans – Orton won over fans and his teammates. When asked to comment on the move, linebacker Brian Urlacher almost immediately talk about what a good player Denver got in return along with the draft picks – not exactly a ringing endorsement of the deal.

There is no denying that Cutler has skill. He was a Pro Bowler last year and threw for 4,500 yards. But, he had star receiver Brandon Marshall as his go-to guy and a budding star in Eddie Royal as his No. 2 option. The Bears' leading receiver was rookie running back Matt Forte and two of the next three top receivers were tight ends. Devin Hester was the leading wide receiver in the reception race and he only recently became a full-time receiver. The Broncos also had a solid offensive line that protected Cutler while in Denver. The Bears have more questions than answers on their own offensive line.

We may never know what other teams were willing to part with in order to get Cutler, but it seems obvious that nobody else was stepping up with two first-rounders, a third-rounder and a starting QB in return. For the Bears, it gives them a big-name quarterback they haven't had in a very, very long time. The last great QB they had (in my view) was Sid Luckman, who played before most of us were even born. Some will argue that Jim McMahon fit the bill as a great QB, but in reality he was a mediocre quarterback who was a locker room leader, but not blessed with the Hall of Fame type of skills of many QBs of his era. The Bears have tried to fill that void over the years, using first-round picks over the last decade on Grossman and Cade McNown, but have consistently swung and missed. In Cutler they have a bona fide star that is still young and has his best football ahead of him. He came at a huge price, but, if he leads the Bears to the Super Bowl, the investment will have been worth it.

The debate starts today as to whether the Bears gave up too much or not. Some believe the price was worthy of getting a QB that could be the face of the franchise for the next decade. Others will contend that Cutler is an expensive gamble that cost too much. Had the Vikings gone to a Super Bowl following the Walker trade, there wouldn't be the harsh feelings that still exist 20 years later. That trade was the foundation of the dynasty the Cowboys were able to build and the Vikings found themselves hamstrung on draft weekend for years as a result. The Bears won't have that long to wait until they get their full compliment of draft picks back, but they have a lot of holes to fill and will have to do it with lower-round draft picks over the next two years.

In our mind, the jury is still out on the Bears. Unlike the Vikings, who many NFL analysts believe are just a Cutler-type QB away from being a Super Bowl team, the Bears have a lot of problems that weren't addressed by this trade and won't be addressed in the draft. As it stands now, they have just one pick before their compensatory pick at the end of the third round and will have to guess right on that player or their 2009 draft could be a complete wash. Cutler will be under the microscope from the moment he steps into Halas Hall today. Was he worth it? In the end, it will come down to how the team performs. He hasn't proved to be a winner in terms of wins and losses with the Broncos. The Bears are banking (heavily) that he is the missing piece to their return to the Super Bowl. Only time will prove whether the move was a savvy one or one that will cripple the franchise in the coming years.

Viking Update Top Stories