Could Carolina be a landing spot for Cutler?

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Besides the hundreds of mailbag items I'm getting from Tampa Bay fans about Jay Cutler, I'm getting a surprisingly large amount of similar items from Carolina fans.

Their question: Why don't the Panthers trade defensive end Julius Peppers for Cutler? In other words, swap one disgruntled player for another?

I don't see it because I think general manager Marty Hurney and coach John Fox have too much loyalty (even though it might be blind loyalty) to Jake Delhomme. All indications are the Panthers plan to stick with Delhomme, even after that five-interception game in the disastrous playoff loss to Arizona. There's also a school of thought that Cutler might be a bit of a problem.

The Panthers like to say repeatedly that they won't touch guys with issues and that's largely true. But there's a running joke among scouts in the league with the Carolina scouts every time they say, "We can't touch this guy" because of issues. Every time that happens, scouts from other teams say, "What about Steve Smith?"

Yes, it's true, the wide receiver has had plenty of issues (he's been involved in fights with teammates three times) and there's no question the Panthers have bent the rules for him. But Smith's issues are with controlling his anger and when the Panthers have been able to keep him focused, they've gotten huge results from him.

That's why I don't think you can completely write off the Cutler scenario. Is the guy really a trouble-maker? Maybe he's just in a situation where he needs a fresh start.

Fox and Hurney have long been hesitant to go out and draft a rookie quarterback because they believe they take too long to develop. But, sooner or later, they're going to need a replacement for Delhomme, who's not getting any younger. This might be their opportunity to get an immediate and established replacement.

Let's face the facts here: The Panthers have to do something about Peppers, who's tying up $17 million in cap space with the franchise tag and wants out of Carolina even more than Cutler wants out of Denver. Just a thought, but why not unload him for a franchise quarterback?