3 players the Denver Broncos gave up on way too soon

Cincinnati Bengals vs Denver Broncos - December 24, 2006
Cincinnati Bengals vs Denver Broncos - December 24, 2006 / Rich Gabrielson/GettyImages
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The Denver Broncos have a rich history full of players that have been immortalized in the Hall of Fame or the team's Ring of Fame, but some of the best to ever wear the orange and blue played their best football after the Broncos gave up on them. How many players realized their full potential after leaving Denver? Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos and fans of Broncos Country, this list is rather expansive, even just in relatively recent team history.

3 players the Denver Broncos gave up on too soon

1. Jay Cutler, QB

Legendary head coach Mike Shanahan never used a first-round draft pick on the quarterback position until he and his staff fell in love with Jay Cutler in the 2006 NFL Draft. Cutler was an incredible talent coming out of Vanderbilt who seemed to be the perfect fit to run Shanahan's offense with his combination of mobility, arm talent, and moxie as a playmaker. The relationship between Cutler and Shanahan blossomed to the point that in 2008, just his third NFL season, Cutler threw for over 4,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos, Cutler's final time wearing the Broncos helmet would be in that Pro Bowl after the 2008 season. 

The Denver Broncos fired Shanahan in 2009, replacing him with the wunderkind Josh McDaniels, a disciple of Bill Belichick and the architect of the Tom Brady offense. McDaniels, in his hubris, came to Denver and immediately ostracized Cutler to the point that the Pro Bowl QB demanded a trade to the Chicago Bears. Cutler would lead the Bears to a playoff win in 2010 while the Broncos had the second-worst record in the league that year. Although Cutler's time in Chicago wasn't spent hoisting Lombardi trophies, the combination of him and head coach Mike Shanahan felt like it was on the cusp of greatness at the time the Broncos traded him away.