Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The window on Cutler and the Bucs might have slammed almost a month ago. Tampa Bay's best -- and perhaps only -- shot at landing the Denver quarterback might have come on the day in late February, when the Bucs were, at very least, involved in some talks about a possible three-way trade.
Reports of what actually transpired are sketchy. But we do know for sure there was at least some talk of a deal that would have sent Cutler to Tampa Bay, Matt Cassel to Denver and Tampa Bay's first-round pick to New England. It didn't transpire as the Patriots traded Cassel to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick.
The wreckage of that day still is flying in Denver, with Cutler and the team reportedly at odds about his future with the Broncos. Cutler reportedly wants out, and the Broncos may or may not grant his wish.
Even if the Broncos do decide to deal Cutler, it might be way too late for Tampa Bay. Whatever happened on that February day, the rest of the league suddenly found out that there's a chance Cutler could be available. That simple fact might have closed this case for the Bucs.
Maybe they could have had Cutler for their first-round pick (No. 19 overall) back in February. Now that the rest of the league is watching the Cutler situation, the price tag suddenly has gone up and the Bucs probably don't have the ammunition to play in this game.
All they've really got is that first-round pick. Their second-round pick already is gone in a trade with Cleveland for tight end Kellen Winslow. Tampa Bay does have a third-round pick, but that and a first-rounder are probably not nearly enough to get Cutler.
Detroit, a potential landing spot for Cutler, has two first-round picks (Nos. 1 and 20), and there are a whole bunch of teams with picks in the first and second rounds. Then there's Cleveland, which has the No. 5 overall pick, disgruntled defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (who sure would look good in Denver) and two, young quarterbacks in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.
You think some combination of what Cleveland has in the cupboard could be tempting?
Quite simply, the Bucs probably can't compete for Cutler now. The best they could do is package their first- and third-round picks and maybe include a future draft pick. They have no players to offer that would be attractive in a trade. If Denver's going to part with Cutler, the Broncos must come up with another quarterback. I don't think fans in Denver would be very enthused if they saw Brian Griese strolling back into town.
Cutler would be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay. The Bucs have assembled what looks to be a good offense everywhere but quarterback, and Cutler has the arm for coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's downfield passing game. But this might be an idea whose time has come and gone.
Besides, even if the Bucs were able to handle one price tag for Cutler, they might not be able to handle the other. It's pretty obvious that part of this whole Cutler scenario, if he is traded, will be a big, new contract.
There's a school of thought in Tampa Bay that Bucs ownership, which also has its hands full with the Manchester United soccer team, is being pretty tight with the purse strings. There's some evidence to support this -- the Bucs laid off a bunch of employees and they've pulled training camp back to their own practice facility after seven years at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
If they're laying off $35,000-a-year office workers, how can they turn around and give millions to Cutler?
This deal just might not add up on many levels. So where does that leave the Bucs?
Pretty much right where they were when they first inquired about Cutler. They have Luke McCown, a quarterback whose potential they like. The Bucs have said repeatedly they want to give McCown a chance to compete for a starting job, and they did give him a new contract. Other than that, they have Griese, who is nothing more than a nice veteran backup, and second-year pro Josh Johnson, who is a project.
There's little doubt that the Bucs will bring another quarterback into the mix, but it's a long shot that Cutler's going to be the guy. Barring something miraculous, the Bucs might have to lower their expectations a bit.
Free agents Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller and Byron Leftwich are available. Or maybe the Bucs can swing a trade with Cleveland for Quinn or Anderson. Something like that wouldn't be nearly as costly as Cutler.
This whole Cutler thing was a great idea at first and it could have worked perfectly if the Bucs had been able to pull off a deal back in February. Now, it looks like the Bucs have a pair of "toos" on the table.
Too little and too late.