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Soap opera in Denver? Just change the station

3/16/2009

My six-year-old daughter came home from school recently and complained about her best friend, saying they can't get along, that she can't play with her at recess, had to find another table to eat lunch at, and more travesties. One of them claimed the other wasn't the first choice to be her best friend, or said something to someone else about something or other, I don't know. I told her not to worry, these things eventually work out, and they will resume recess, lunch and other important plans any day now. It is, you know, kid stuff.

Which brings us to quarterback Jay Cutler, coach Josh McDaniels and those Denver Broncos. I tell you, wise, mature fantasy owners, this is all going to work out. Like Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers, there's no other way. And even in the remote possibility Cutler's newfound trade demands become a reality, it's not like he's headed to the CFL or XFL or, well, the Lions. He'll play somewhere and deliver nice fantasy numbers. He did this in 2008 despite no single running back on the Broncos rushing for 350 yards, and the even more enigmatic Brandon Marshall disappearing for stretches. This is a business, and Cutler is a solid quarterback in any system. I just think he'll end up remaining in the Denver one when cooler heads prevail.

Whether the Broncos really want their Pro Bowl quarterback or not, or whether the Pro Bowl quarterback wants to play in Denver or not, the point is it's not so easy for NFL teams to put a trade together. This is not a fantasy league! Cutler isn't going to be swapped for Aaron Rodgers, Donovan McNabb or the rights to a college kid. Sure, Brett Favre got moved a summer ago, but the Packers had someone in place. The Broncos, whether you believe they tried to acquire Matt Cassel or not, have Cutler, and that's it. I'm very skeptical a trade is pending.

Of course, this all brings up the concern that Cutler will not be able to function properly in this new McDaniels era and offense, and that the 4,500 yards, 25 touchdowns and No. 6 ranking on the 2008 fantasy scoring leaderboard (fourth at quarterback) were mirages. Again, I find it hard to believe a player as talented as Cutler is going to take a major step backward just because he and the new coach aren't pals. A new offense getting implemented in, say, Week 4 of the season might concern me, but the Broncos have months to prepare Cutler for whatever McDaniels wants to do. If you own Cutler in a keeper league, look at your calendar and realize it's March, then get back to studying for your fantasy baseball draft.

As for the other Broncos, it's a different kind of mess, isn't it? Maybe Cutler sees all the hubbub surrounding the team's skill positions and that's partly responsible for his trade demand. Talented wide receiver Marshall probably has a league suspension pending for his latest offseason, off-field episodes. Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan have been wooed to "help" at running back, joining Ryan Torain, Selvin Young and Peyton Hillis, but none of them look like 1,000-yard backs, especially with all that depth in the way. Jabar Gaffney was picked up to help Marshall and Eddie Royal, but again, does that excite anyone?

None of this matters. Sandbox time is over, everyone. If you own a Jay Cutler jersey in Broncos orange, you have more than five months to get it dry-cleaned and ready for the season.

In other Monday news, the Jaguars released wide receiver Matt Jones. Fantasy owners (and the Jaguars) waited for this college quarterback to emerge as a reliable, consistent pass-catcher, but it never happened. And then, when the off-field stuff started happening -- let's just say Jones hasn't been an angel -- the team decided to move on. Fantasy owners should have moved on a while ago.

Jones was a tantalizing fantasy pick because the run-oriented Jaguars never seemed to have a No. 1 wide receiver for David Garrard and Byron Leftwich to throw to once Jimmy Smith retired. Jones seemed to play well when healthy and when the ball was consistently thrown his way, and one could see how he would emerge. Four times in his first three seasons he topped 100 receiving yards in a game, including the Week 17 finale in 2007, when he ripped Houston for 138 yards and a touchdown. That, of course, only served to boost his value too high for 2008 drafts. Jones did lead the Jaguars in catches and receiving yards but scored only two touchdowns. There were 44 wide receivers that scored more fantasy points.

It's possible Jones revives his disappointing career elsewhere, and with his 6-foot-6 frame and speed, he could eventually emerge as someone you'll want in fantasy. It's more likely he's dealing with more pressing issues at this point, however.

As for Garrard's Jaguars, the offseason buzz around the team has been whether Maurice Jones-Drew is suddenly a first-round pick (I've heard some experts would pick him in the top 5!) now that Fred Taylor has left. Nobody talks about Jaguars wide receivers. There's a reason for this.