Even if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested in trading for Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris couldn't say it, or at least not publicly.
Denver owner Pat Bowlen issued a statement a few days ago putting NFL teams on notice that Cutler is officially on the trading block after a falling out between the player and team.
"Numerous attempts to contact Jay Cutler in the last 10 days, both by head coach Josh McDaniels and myself, have been unsuccessful," 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."
Even though Denver is fielding trade offers for Cutler, Morris did his best to avoid violating league-tampering rules.
"In fairness to the question, we don't talk to players under contract. It's against the rules and we don't do it," said Morris.
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.
While he didn't name Cutler specifically, Morris did reiterate that the Bucs plan to take four quarterbacks to training camp. Right now they have three signal callers – Luke McCown, Josh Johnson and Brian Griese – under contract.
"We will need to add a fourth quarterback at some point," said Morris. "It most likely will happen by our next activities, which are in May."
Tampa Bay is in the process of installing Jeff Jagodzinski's system and evaluating its current talent, including McCown and Johnson, who have combined for less than 10 starts in the NFL.
Morris admits that the Bucs, who own the 19th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft but are without their second-round pick due to the trade for tight end Kellen Winslow, are looking for a franchise quarterback, but said that player could already be on the team.
"Just look at history. You can probably name them off the top of your head," Morris said of franchise quarterbacks. "Franchise quarterbacks come around every once in a while, but you need one to win long term. You either find someone that can become a franchise guy or you go get one. Franchise guys don't come around often. The thing about franchise guys is you don't know where they come from, especially quarterback. Who knew who Matt Cassel was last year? Who knows who Luke McCown is right now? Who knows who Josh Johnson is right now? Let's go out and find out."
Morris is not worried about what the perception might be to Tampa Bay's current stable of quarterbacks in terms of the team's possible interest in Cutler, who likely will continue to be linked to Tampa Bay until he is traded to the Bucs or another team.
"You look for anybody that can improve your team," said Morris. "With that situation in particular, he's under contract, so you don't discuss those issues.
"I addressed that [with the quarterbacks] early on when we talked about competition. We want to have the most competitive building in football. We're going to bring people here to compete at every position. That's what we want, what we're going to encourage and what we're going to force."