Denver has to find its new quarterback

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

There is no question that the Denver Broncos got good value by trading quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears on Thursday afternoon.

But it is way too early to say if it was a good trade for Denver.

The problem is that Jay Cutler should have never been on the trade block. That is the bottom line. It is absolutely insane to think the Broncos just traded a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback who has just 37 NFL games under his belt. The guy isn't even in his prime yet.

That's why Chicago gave up so much to get their new franchise quarterback. Here is the trade breakdown: Denver gets the Bears' No. 18 overall pick this year, their first-round pick in 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and quarterback Kyle Orton. Denver gave up one of its fifth-round picks this year in addition to Cutler.

Indeed, the Bears gave up a lot for Cutler. But he is worth it. Teams are built around quarterbacks. That's why the Bears made this deal.

Now, Denver has to go find its new franchise quarterback. You know, like it did three years ago when it traded up in the draft to get Cutler, who did his part by developing quickly. Now, new Denver coach Josh McDaniels, who started the Cutler saga in late February by trying to trade for Matt Cassel, has to figure out who his new quarterback is going to be.

McDaniels clearly has an eye for quarterbacks and he needs to identify one in this draft. The Broncos have the No. 12 and No. 18 picks. One of those picks should be spent on USC's Mark Sanchez if he is still on the board, which may be wishful thinking. I don't think Denver should package both picks to secure Sanchez or Matthew Stafford. Denver has too many needs on defense that have to be addressed.

It will be tempting for Denver to take two defensive standouts at No. 12 and No. 18 or to package the two picks (perhaps all the way up to Seattle at No. 4) to get a defensive star such as Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

But I don't know if Denver can ignore its quarterback position for a year. I'm sorry, but Orton is not the answer.

He is serviceable. He is an accurate thrower who you can compete with. Orton is a game manager but he is not special. Cutler is special. Cutler always gave Denver a puncher's chance because of his strong arm and his overall abilities.

McDaniels is a system coach and Orton is a system quarterback so maybe this can work to some extent, but Denver will need to score a lot of points with a young defense. I'm not sure if Orton can be a scoring machine even with a solid supporting cast. Cutler shined with Denver's weapons.

With Cutler entering his prime, Denver was ready to compete now, at least on offense. The Broncos are already young. They didn't need to get younger. They needed to get better. I'm not so sure the Broncos are better today without Cutler on the roster. Yes, they got draft picks but often draft picks don't pan out.

While this trade certainly downgrades Denver's quarterback position, it does deserve a hat tip for getting so much out of Chicago. There were several teams pushing for Cutler and Denver squeezed as much as it could. In the proposed Cassel trade, Denver was going to trade Cutler straight up for Cassel, so the Broncos did better in the end.

It was likely the third-round pick Chicago gave up that made this trade possible. Washington and Tampa Bay just couldn't compete with the Bears' offer.

On paper, this trade looks good for Denver. But it still has to find its quarterback. You just can't trade Jay Cutler and move on. A capable replacement is needed. Now, Denver has to go find him.