TAMPA — If the Broncos intend to trade Jay Cutler, they likely will begin listening to proposals at the NFL owners meetings in Dana Point, Calif., this week.
It's hard to gauge what kind of compensation it would take to land Cutler because there hasn't been a quarterback of similar age and talent traded in recent memory. Drew Brees and Chad Pennington recently switched teams, but Cutler's value is considerably higher. He's 25, led the league's second-ranked offense, has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in his short career and has been to the Pro Bowl.
The Bucs are among at least four teams that have expressed interest. But GM Mark Dominik hasn't talked to the Broncos since the failed attempt to execute a three-way deal that involved Matt Cassel.
Many believe it will take a first-round pick in this year's draft and possibly another No. 1 in 2010 to get Cutler. The Broncos could also ask for a quarterback in return. The Lions have the most juice to get Cutler. They own the No. 1 overall pick and the 20th choice they received from Dallas for WR Roy Williams. But the Lions could secure their franchise quarterback by selecting Georgia's Matt Stafford.
Considering the Bucs pick 19th overall and used their second-round pick to get TE Kellen Winslow, Cutler wearing pewter is a long shot.
WHOLE TRUTH: Anytime somebody says, "It's not about the money," it's about one thing: the money.
When the Bucs cut LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June, they said it was to give their young linebackers — Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes — a chance to play.
But last week, the Bucs revealed they've asked S Jermaine Phillips, who turns 30 this month, to move to Brooks' weakside spot. Phillips signed a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Then they signed Bills free agent LB Angelo Crowell to a one-year, $3 million contract. Crowell will compete with Black and Hayward at strongside linebacker. Hayes is behind Phillips on the depth chart. If Crowell and Phillips win jobs, the Bucs' "young" linebackers still won't be on the field.
RULES CHANGES ON WAY? Owners will consider several rules changes proposed by the competition committee, starting with what would likely become known as the Ed Hochuli rule. The veteran referee blew a call that helped cost San Diego a win against Denver last season, ruling that a ball that slipped from Cutler's grasp was incomplete instead of a fumble.
The committee will recommend that when the ball comes loose while throwing, replay can be used to determine whether it's a fumble or an incomplete pass. Under current rules, the play is not reviewable.
"We thought when we watched the plays happen, basically it happened the same as the down-by-contact, and it should be reviewable in the same context," said Rich McKay, co-chairman of the committee and Falcons team president.
The committee also wants to eliminate some formations on special teams. Bunching up players on some kicks "are creating matchups that we don't like," McKay said. It also wants to eliminate the wedge of three men or more blocking on kick returns.
"Plenty of teams have done it with two-man wedges, some do it with no wedge at all," he said.
The league also would like to eliminate any hits to the helmet against defenseless receivers. Currently, only helmet-to-helmet contact is banned.