Jay Cutler got his wish Thursday: A ticket out of Denver. And the Chicago Bears have a franchise quarterback for the first time in decades.
The Broncos announced Thursday that they had agreed to trade their disgruntled Pro Bowl passer to the Bears, who have gone through a bevy of quarterbacks without much success ever since Jim McMahon called plays in Chicago during the 1980s.
NFL.com's Steve Wyche reports that the Broncos will receive the Bears' first-round draft pick (18th overall) this year and in 2010, a third-round pick (84th overall) this year and quarterback Kyle Orton in exchange for Cutler and a 2009 fifth-round selection (140th overall).
Calls to Cutler's agent, Bus Cook, went unanswered. Cook's office in Hattiesberg, Miss., was closed because of bad weather, and his home phone had a message asking callers to call back later. An e-mail sent by The Associated Press wasn't returned.
Cutler asked for a trade last month after his relationship with Josh McDaniels soured when the new 32-year-old coach talked to other teams about trading the quarterback. Cutler and his agent didn't believe McDaniels was upfront with them about the trade talks.
Two meetings designed to clear the air only raised Cutler's level of distrust. Still, McDaniels insisted over and over that Cutler was his guy, and the coach said at last week's NFL Annual Meeting that he would do everything he could to repair their relationship.
When Cutler didn't return the Broncos' phone calls, however, team owner Pat Bowlen said enough was enough. On Tuesday night, Bowlen announced that he had given his new brain trust of McDaniels and general manager Brian Xanders the go-ahead to seek a trade of the quarterback who made the Pro Bowl in just his second season as a starter.
Now, the Bears have a top quarterback, albeit one with baggage.
"I don't have any concerns," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "(Coach Lovie Smith) and I talked about that. We did, like a lot of people who were interested in Jay, a lot of work going back to not just when he was with Denver (but) but going back to his days at Vanderbilt."
Angelo said Bears scout Rex Hogan lives in the Nashville area and developed a "great rapport" with Cutler coming out of Vanderbilt in 2006.
"We felt that (Cutler) is a very good person, a good leader," Angelo said. "He had some things that happened in Denver. We recognized those, but we treated them as just speed bumps, part of the growing process. He's highly competitive, he's highly emotional. That just comes with the territory."
Although Cutler is 17-20 as a starter, he has been victimized by dismal defenses in Denver, and he was an impressive 13-1 when the Broncos held opponents to 21 points or fewer.
Last season, Cutler threw for a Denver franchise-record 4,526 yards, 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. In his 37-game career with the Broncos, Cutler completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 9,024 yards, 54 TDs and 37 interceptions.
Although Cutler was prone to mistakes, his bold and at times risky play wasn't just tolerated but encouraged by former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who would often laud the quarterback for not just dumping off short passes to pad his statistics but instead dared to go downfield, even into coverage. Shanahan said that trait would make Cutler great one day.
However, Cutler's inability to quickly fulfill that forecast helped cost Shanahan his job on Dec. 30 after the Broncos missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
Cutler wasn't happy about Shanahan's firing. And he was upset when his position coach, Jeremy Bates, bolted for USC because McDaniels will be the one calling plays in Denver now.
When he hired McDaniels, Bowlen proclaimed that Cutler "is the man around here, now."
That didn't last long.
Cutler started to get over Shanahan's dismissal and Bates' departure, and he told McDaniels in February that he was eager to learn the new offense. But that all changed on Feb. 28, when Cutler learned McDaniels had talked about trading him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a three-way deal that would have brought McDaniels' protege, Matt Cassel, from the New England Patriots to Denver.
McDaniels had tutored Cassel, who led New England to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady suffered a season-ending injury in the opener last year.
That sent McDaniels' stock soaring and landed him in Denver as Shanahan's successor.
Cutler and McDaniels seemed like the perfect match: The rocket-armed passer meets the offensive guru.
But McDaniels' dalliance with his former pupil blew up in his face when he didn't clue in Cutler, and now the coach begins his era in Denver by chasing off his 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback -- and he'll have to face Cassel twice a year because the Patriots ended up sending his protege to the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs instead.
As for Cutler, he won't have to ditch his West Coast style for the intricate Patriots-style offense.
Cutler is going to one of the teams he rooted for as a kid growing up in Santa Claus, Ind., but he's also leaving a great pocket of protection in Denver, where Ryan Clady is considered the best young left tackle in the NFL, and a great bunch of receivers led by fellow Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Behind young tackles Clady and Ryan Harris, Cutler's offensive line allowed just 12 sacks last season.
The Bears, however, agreed to terms on a three-year contract with free-agent left tackle Orlando Pace on Thursday to give Cutler more protection.
The Broncos now have Orton, fellow newcomer Chris Simms and Darrell Hackney at quarterback.
Simms, who signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent deal ostensibly to serve as Cutler's backup, has thrown just two passes since undergoing emergency surgery to remove his spleen after a game in 2006. Hackney's next NFL pass will be his first.
Angelo made it clear in December, after his team went 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year, that solidifying the quarterback spot was his top priority. Now, he has a Pro Bowler at the position.
"When you just look at the history of the league, I can't recall a situation quite like this," Angelo said. "All we did was react to a situation that we felt affected our football team."
Orton threw for 2,972 yards last season while completing 272 of 465 passes and throwing more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (12) after beating out Rex Grossman for the starting job. But Orton wasn't the same after being carted off the field with a sprained ankle in a game against the Detroit Lions midway through the season.
Orton went from throwing a Chicago franchise-record 205 passes without an interception to throwing eight in four games before a strong finish in the finale.
"I don't want to make anybody think that we didn't have respect for Kyle, because we did," Angelo said. "I feel what really facilitated this trade was Kyle was part of it. I think the draft compensation, given what I was to understand, was very similar to other teams. But they liked Kyle Orton and that was part of it. And I could see why they liked Kyle."
In Cutler, the Bears receive a great but often petulant passer who's going from the long shadow of John Elway in Denver to the Windy City, where he'll be under just as much scrutiny.
Cutler is halfway through the six-year, $48 million contract that he signed as the 11th overall pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2006 draft. His salary-cap number for next season is just over $1 million.
Although Cutler probably won't play in the game, the Bears visit the Broncos for a preseason game Aug. 30.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.