Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Go ahead and criticize the Bucs for not doing more, so far, in free agency. But don't question their effort.
The Bucs made a very serious run at defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth before losing out to the Washington Redskins. All indications are they were willing to spend something close to what the Redskins ended up giving up for Haynesworth.
Now, there's growing evidence that all that talk about the Bucs trying to land Jay Cutler in a trade Saturday was far more than an exploratory effort. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the Bucs offered to trade for Cutler in a three-way deal that would have given the Chiefs Matt Cassel and the Patriots a draft pick that would have been much higher than the second-round choice New England ended up taking from Kansas City in a trade for Cassel. Mortensen said the Patriots could have received a pick that could have been as early as No. 12 in the first round.
This story is not over yet. Mortensen reported Cutler is not happy with the fact that he even was shopped for a trade and you can't blame him. The guy is coming off a very nice season and he can't feel good that the new regime was considering unloading him and bringing in Cassel.
That hurt isn't likely to just go away. If the Broncos were even thinking about trading Cutler this time, there's a very good chance he still might be on the block. There's also a chance that this might be such a blow to Cutler's ego, he may now ask out of Denver.
The Bucs have to be keeping a close eye on this situation. A lot of people think they should have made a run at Cassel. They didn't and apparently have identified Cutler as a guy they really like. They've got to continue to pursue this one.
They've been coming close to a lot of big deals, but haven't come up with much aside from tight end Kellen Winslow. The Bucs have finished second a couple of times already in this round of free agency.
With Cutler on the table, the Bucs have to make sure they go out and finish first in this situation. If it comes to giving up their first-round pick (19th overall) and maybe even more, this is a move they need to make.
Cutler's already a good quarterback and he's young enough to have lots of upside. He's better than anybody the Bucs will be able to draft and he's better than any free agent. If Tampa Bay can go out and get Cutler, they can make everyone forget about Haynesworth and other second-place finishes. This one would excite a tense fan base. More importantly, adding Cutler instantly would make the Bucs a much better team.