Assessing the shock waves from the Cutler trade

April 3rd, 2009 - 11:09 am

The day after your favorite team makes a trade, particularly one with the magnitude of the Jay Cutler acquisition, is in some ways similar to the morning after you’ve hosted a party at your house. You fondly remember the previous’ day’s excitement, but you look around the house and realize there is still work to be done.

I know there’s still a buzz in the air about the transaction — and believe me, there should be. It’s the kind of move, paired with the signing of future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace, that likely puts the Bears in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. But we also are aware that the Bears still have needs to address and holes to fill.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the ramifications caused by yesterday’s big day for the Chicago Bears.

To whom will Cutler throw the ball?
The football equivalent to the “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” paradox is “Does a quarterback make his receivers good, or do receivers make their quarterback good?” Clearly, there’s evidence for both sides of the argument.

Two of the most prominent of the former argument are Tom Brady and Brett Favre. How many average receivers did Brady make good during the Patriots’ Super Bowl years? It’s ironic that the Pats have yet to win a Super Bowl after Brady finally got some good receivers. As for Favre, I’d have to take off my shoes and socks to count the pile of crap at receiver that Favre had to work with, yet that he made to look respectable.

On the flip side, in this article from CBS Sportsline.com’s Pete Prisco, he referenced an interview with Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, who said “that he thought great quarterbacks make receivers, not the other way around”. While I think Fitzgerald is just being modest because he’s truly a gifted receiver, I happen to agree with him. Hence, Cutler will wind up making the Bears receivers better.

However, the Bears let go of Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd and will need to add some depth to the position.

Evaluating the options the Bears currently have
We know the Bears feel Devin Hester is a No. 1 receiver even if you or I don’t feel the same. With Cutler’s cannon for an arm, it’s hard to envision Hester outrunning the deep ball from his new quarterback.

Rashied Davis should probably not be counted on as anything more than a special teams player and a fourth option, should the Bears ever decide to run the no-huddle or the spread offense at certain times throughout the game.

It was revealed recently that Earl Bennett’s problem with not getting on the field last year had more to do with his problem learning the plays as opposed to any physical defects he might possess. I can’t help but feel that if he develops the mental aspect to his game, he’ll wind up flourishing with his former college quarterback throwing the ball to him. While at Vanderbilt, Cutler and Bennett developed a rapport that is definitely required of a quarterback and receiver for an offense to succeed in the NFL. Whether that translates into success for both players within the Bears offense remains to be seen.

Will the Bears now sign a veteran receiver to complement Hester?
There are two big-named veterans still available that would instantly boost the credibility of the offense as a short-term solution. Torry Holt or Marvin Harrison would give Cutler a reliable set of hands to keep pressure off of the run game and keep the offense balanced.

If the Bears choose to avoid dishing out a lot of money at the position, there are other capable veterans still on the market that could upgrade the position. But after making the splash with Cutler, I don’t see why the Bears wouldn’t want to acquire one of these former Pro Bowlers to make a run at the Super Bowl within the next three years.

Do the Bears use their second round pick on a receiver?
The Bears could also elect to draft a rookie wide receiver to help stabilize the position, but they traded away their first round pick to Denver in the Cutler deal, so they’d have to wait until pick No. 49 to take one.

The dilemma then becomes hoping teams don’t trade in front of the Bears to select all the good receivers ahead of them. Because the Bears have addressed a few needs this off-season and narrowed their focus, other franchises will be aware that the Bears could select a wide receiver in Round 2 and trade up accordingly.

In addition to that, how reliable will a rookie receiver be, particularly one not drafted in the first round? Bennett was a third-round pick and didn’t contribute at all last year. The Bears need someone to come in and compete immediately, which is why I feel signing a veteran is imperative.

Altering the draft strategy
After the Bears traded their next two first round picks, it’s understandable why they signed Pace. Hoping Pace stays healthy and anchors the line for the next three years, the Bears now don’t need to draft a rookie offensive lineman as early as they did Chris Williams last year.

Suddenly, offensive line isn’t as big a need as it was 48 hours ago. Quarterback isn’t a need anymore, either. And running back and tight end were solidified last year. Other than drafting a wide receiver, the Bears are free to kick back and help upgrade a defense that has been slipping since its Super Bowl run three seasons ago. As we all know, putting together a defense through the draft is Jerry Angelo’s specialty. The Bears can draft a safety, a defensive tackle, a strong-side linebacker, and a pass-rushing end — in that order, hopefully — to help improve last year’s No. 21-ranked unit.

It’s amazing how a team’s outlook can change so quickly, and that’s the beauty of the NFL, something that sets it apart from the other professional sports leagues.