PewterReport.com had a chance to talk to Bucs linebacker Niko Koutouvides Wednesday. He was recruited by the Bucs before signing with the Broncos in 2007. Denver released Koutouvides this offseason, which led him to Tampa Bay, where is is playing middle linebacker behind Barrett Ruud.
Koutouvides played one season with Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, whom Denver's owner announced is officially on the trading block.
"Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by head coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a statement. "A conversation with his agent earlier today clearly communicated and confirmed to us that Jay no longer has any desire to play for the Denver Broncos. We will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate his request to be traded."
Cutler, 25, was linked to Tampa Bay on the first day of free agency when the Bucs reportedly tried to swing a three-way trade that would have sent New England QB Matt Cassel to Denver and Tampa Bay's first- and third-round draft picks to New England, with Cutler being shipped from Denver to Tampa Bay. Cassel was eventually traded from New England to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick.
In his one year in Denver, Koutouvides formed a good friendship and relationship with Cutler, whom he said is a good player and teammate.
The Bucs have three quarterbacks on their roster, including Luke McCown and Josh Johnson, who have combined for less than 10 starts in the NFL. Tampa Bay has plans to add a fourth quarterback to its roster before training camp, but Koutouvides stopped short of saying the Bucs were still attempting to land Cutler.
"I don't even know if I can comment on that," Koutouvides said when asked about Cutler. "Obviously everyone knows what is going on. Jay is a Pro Bowl quarterback. That speaks for itself. Any team that needs a quarterback is probably going after Jay. I don't know what the legalities are on it, but if you watch ESPN right now they're trying to trade Jay."
Tampa Bay may have interest in trading for Cutler, but the Bucs might not have the ammo. The team is without its second-round pick this year due to the trade for tight end Kellen Winslow. The Bucs own the 19th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Cutler, a former first-round draft pick, has received some criticism for the way he's handled the situation in Denver, but Koutouvides defended him on Wednesday.
"I knew him well," said Koutouvides. "From what I have been around, and I was there one year, he's a confident kid and he's a leader. I mean, [expletive], he made the Pro Bowl last year. He's a good teammate. He just felt he was disrespected, and that's the way they handled it.
"Some people say he could be handling it better than the way he is. Maybe, or maybe not. That's what he has to deal with. He's the one that went through the situation. How I know him as a person – he's a leader, a great teammate and he wants to win. He's feisty and a fighter. He takes a hit and gets back up."
When asked if the Bucs had inquired about Cutler through him or asked about Cutler's situation in Denver, Koutouvides said, "No."
Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski had "no comment" on Cutler when asked about Tampa Bay's interest in possibly acquiring the quarterback on Wednesday.