Source: Spurned Cutler wants to be traded

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Denver Broncos may have seriously damaged their relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler.

A source close to the situation confirmed the Broncos were trying to acquire quarterback Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots by dangling Cutler, their Pro Bowl quarterback.

The trade talk infuriated Cutler, who now wants to leave the Broncos.

The source said the proposed trade was a three-way deal that would have sent Cassel to Denver to reunite with former Patriots offensive coordinator and new Denver head coach Josh McDaniels, Cutler to Tampa Bay and compensation from Tampa Bay to New England.

Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded Saturday to Denver's AFC West rival Kansas City for a second-round pick.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Broncos pursued the trade because McDaniels wanted to be reunited with Cassel, who excelled under McDaniels last season as an injury replacement for Tom Brady.

In the aftermath of the trade Saturday, Cutler asked permission to find his own trade partner but was denied by the Broncos, according to the source. Cutler is still hopeful he will be traded because he feels betrayed by McDaniels, the source said.

The source said Denver is no longer interested in dealing Cutler, who made the Pro Bowl in 2008, his second full season as a starter. The source said Tampa Bay, Detroit and Chicago could be possible destinations if Cutler gets his way and is traded. The source pointed out that until Cutler heard about the trade talks Saturday, he was completely happy playing for McDaniels and being in Denver.

It may be difficult for Denver to trade Cutler now because there are no other quality quarterbacks available. It would be silly to trade him to the Lions for the No. 1 overall pick and try to draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford or USC's Mark Sanchez. Neither of those players is a known commodity, while Cutler has blossomed into one of the NFL's better quarterbacks.

Denver has to regain Cutler's trust immediately or this could turn into one of the NFL's uglier situations.

The source said that while Denver hopes to smooth the situation over, Cutler probably will seek to depart Denver as a restricted free agent in two years. Cutler signed a six-year deal with the Broncos after he was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick in 2006.

The source said Cutler was hurt by the news that McDaniels wanted to start his Denver tenure with Cassel and not him.

"The relationship has been tarnished," the source said. "I think it's beyond repair."

Cutler expressed displeasure when Denver fired coach Mike Shanahan in December. However, he has been publicly supportive of McDaniels and had several good meetings with the coach in the weeks since McDaniels took over. The source said Cutler was confused by the trade talk.

"It's like a knife to Jay's heart," the source said. "It will be hard for him to get past this."

McDaniels will be able to get past this issue, but it may take some time. The Broncos sold McDaniels' hiring as a chance for Cutler to flourish. Seven weeks later, the pairing has taken a sudden and potentially disastrous turn.

Update: Here is more from Denver Post, including comments from Cutler.