Jay Cutler has been traded from the Denver Broncos to the Chicago Bears. It's a glorious day in Chicago, while Denver's feelings are a bit more mixed. And, as usually happens when a trade of this magnitude goes down, our very own Buffalo Bills are affected.
Now that Cutler's situation has been resolved, the focus on quarterbacks will turn to rookies - and, far more significantly for the Bills, which teams will jockey for this year's three hot quarterback prospects. The Bills, holders of the eleventh overall selection, find themselves directly in the middle of eight teams that may consider making a move for either Georgia's Matthew Stafford, USC's Mark Sanchez or Kansas State's Josh Freeman.
What follows is a breakdown of the possibilities. And possibilities there are; if the Bills are interested in trading down in this year's pecking order, they very well could end up with several scenarios to capitalize on. Then again, events could unfold which afford the Bills no opportunity to move down whatsoever (at least in terms of teams trading up for a quarterback).
#1 overall: Detroit Lions
Obviously, the Detroit Lions are the holders of the top overall pick in the draft. Just as obviously, as they haven't won an NFL regular season game since the calendar read 2007, they need a franchise quarterback at the center of their rebuilding effort. For months, mock drafters everywhere have penciled in Stafford as Detroit's top overall selection - and while that still remains a strong possibility, it's certainly not a given.
Detroit has options here, including an offensive tackle or linebacker Aaron Curry. Still, my money is on the team biting the bullet and drafting Stafford, if only because I'm hopeful that the Lions are one of the teams potentially interested in trading for Jason Peters (if they go OT here, that's out of the question).
#4 overall: Seattle Seahawks
Like the Lions, there's a chance that Seattle takes a quarterback where they currently sit. Matt Hasselbeck has taken a beating in recent seasons, and he's no spring chicken. The theory is that Seattle will look hard at drafting the long-term replacement to Hasselbeck, and both Stafford and Sanchez have been mentioned as possibilities. Seahawks fans seem to favor Stafford, but it's worth noting, even if only for the purposes of smokescreen speculation, that the Seahawks sent a large contingent to USC's Pro Day.
#8 overall: Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where things get interesting - and they'll only be interesting if either the Lions or the Seahawks pass on a quarterback where they currently sit. The Jaguars recently wined and dined Sanchez, even though they've already committed serious dollars to current starter David Garrard. Garrard is 31 years old, but while drafting a successor does make some sense, I smell the team buttering up Sanchez to drum up trade interest. With San Francisco at 10 and Denver at 12, Jacksonville's in a good spot for a team to leap-frog two teams potentially interested in quarterbacks. There's an outside shot they take a quarterback, but I think they're eager to move down, and bought Sanchez a dinner to prove it.
#10 overall: San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco, though they seem to like Shaun Hill, have long been linked to Sanchez, the local product in those parts. You have to believe that the strong-armed Stafford piques their interest as well. If either are available, San Francisco would have a hard time passing on them, though Niners fans seem reluctant at the idea of a first-round quarterback. The 49ers are the highest team in the pecking order that lower teams will be looking to leap-frog; hence Jacksonville's wining and dining.
#11 overall: Buffalo Bills
Here sit our beloved Buffalo Bills, with a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle they'll probably trade and plenty of good reasons for moving down in the draft to stock-pile picks. Everything below this point is particularly interesting to us.
#12 overall: Denver Broncos
"The Team That Traded Cutler" will undoubtedly consider Sanchez here if available. Don't forget that new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels prefers system quarterbacks - he doesn't necessarily look for oodles of talent as opposed to intelligence and accuracy. Sanchez will undoubtedly be the top quarterback on their board. That said, there's also a strong chance that the Broncos fortify their defense early and taking a quarterback to develop in the mid-to-late rounds, which is exactly how McDaniels developed star pupil Matt Cassel in the first place.
#17 overall: New York Jets
If there's one team in the NFL more desperate for a quarterback than Detroit at this point, it's the Jets. They're the team that will look to move up if either Stafford or Sanchez slides. The wild card is Freeman; he could very well still be available at 17. The Jets reportedly like Freeman (Jets fans don't) and Sanchez (Jets fans don't), so you have to imagine they like Stafford as well. The Jets are desperate, but they've also got options. They probably will NOT trade with the Bills, as intra-division trades are a rarity on draft day.
#18 overall: Denver Broncos
See above. This pick was acquired from Chicago in the Cutler trade.
#19 overall: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs, another team in re-building mode, are in the unenviable position of letting Luke McCown and Josh Johnson duke it out for the starting QB role in a quarterback competition not quite for the ages. Yeah... they'll consider drafting a quarterback. The hot name is Freeman here, as he spent time with coach Raheem Morris while Morris was at Kansas State. Sanchez is a possibility as well. Moving up might be difficult for the Bucs, however, as the team traded its second-round pick this year for TE Kellen Winslow.
#20 overall: Detroit Lions
With this pick as well as the always-coveted #33 pick, the Lions are in a good position to make a move up if they pass on a quarterback with the top pick (and haven't dealt either of these selections to the Bills for Peters... come on, Mayhew, you know you want that to happen). If they want to move up past the Bucs and Jets of the world to get a quarterback, they have ammo. The Bills are certainly a contender here, considering Denver's placement, though the Lions could also gamble, let Denver pass on a quarterback at 12 and then target a trade with someone just above the Jets.
#22 overall: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are a curiosity to me - they routinely ignore the quarterback position early in the draft, and it hampers them every single year. They made a trade for Sage Rosenfels, who will battle with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job - but with Aaron Rodgers and now Cutler in the NFC North, the Vikings could be looking at trouble without consistent quarterback play. At the very least, they need a long-term starter - so while precedent dictates the Vikings won't be in the QB market unless one of the three names slide all the way to pick 22, it's hard to leave them off this list.
Who likes chess? This is one giantic chess match, and the Bills very well could end up being part of another team's strategy. Feel free to use us, NFL franchises. We want your draft picks. Let the speculation begin!