Like it or not, Cutler situation is very real

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

It's all out in the open now.

What folks close to Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler have been saying privately for the past 16 days is now public.

Cutler wants out of Denver after the team botched a trade to acquire Matt Cassel. Cutler is not in Denver with the rest of his teammates for the start of the offseason workout program and the start of the Josh McDaniels era.

The problem is real, and it's not going anywhere.

The Broncos have to address it. As it has since the drama broke wide open Feb. 28, Denver has two choices: It can try to fix the problem with Cutler or trade him and move on from this unbelievable mess.

OK, the Broncos may have only one course to take: They may have to trade Cutler.

Cutler wanted out as soon as he heard the Broncos had tried to trade him in a move to get Cassel on the second day of the free-agency season. Cutler tried to make nice because he is close to his teammates. But he and McDaniels couldn't come to an accord, after meeting once by phone and once in person.

Cutler wanted Denver to ensure him any trade talks are off the table; those close to him confirm that getting a new contract in Denver (he has three years remaining on his deal) would be a sign of good faith by the team. The Broncos, it seems, just want it all to go away.

The Broncos feel they have been truthful with Cutler. They want him to come and play.

That doesn't seem as if it's going to happen. The rift is bigger than it ever has been. Cutler is on the record about a trade request and he is staying away from team functions. It doesn't seem as if communication is going to change this situation.

In fact, Cutler and the Broncos have agreed on only one thing in the past 16 days -- they want to pursue a trade. Except Denver doesn't want to pursue a trade any longer now that Cassel is in Kansas City. And Cutler didn't want a trade before the Cassel talks.

If the Broncos were to trade Cutler, it would create another problem: Who would replace Cutler as the quarterback in Denver? Chris Simms, who was just signed to be Cutler's backup? Or would it be a free-agent stop-gap signee such as Jeff Garcia?

These are not strong options, especially for a team that had a happy 25-year-old Pro Bowl player as their quarterback less than three weeks ago.

One possibility would be to trade Cutler in a package to the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn. At least then they'd have a quarterback who could potentially become a legitimate NFL player. Or the Broncos could try to trade Cutler for a high draft pick and then take Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez. Still, those players come with no guarantees and it would set the Broncos' program back while the quarterback developed, which is exactly what Denver just did with Cutler, who was the No. 11 pick in 2006.

No, those trade options don't look good. But the idea of Cutler and McDaniels coming to a middle ground doesn't look good, either.

Whatever happens, it needs to happen soon. It has gone well beyond whose fault it is.

This situation is hurting everyone involved. Until this saga, Cutler was never looked upon as a problem player or a controversial figure. He is quiet, but he wasn't considered an unhappy player in the Mike Shanahan era.

The situation also is hurting McDaniels. Badly.

McDaniels, 32, already has doubters. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a coach in NFL history who has been in such a pressure situation two months into his tenure. If he doesn't remedy the situation with Cutler, McDaniels will have to have instant success with whomever Cutler's replacement would be or he'd face an incredible backlash in Broncos-crazed Colorado.

What is going to happen? We aren't sure, but now everyone is sure that the Jay Cutler-Josh McDaniels rift is very real and very much alive.