Patriots did not get suckered in Cassel trade to Chiefs
Posted by sanityinjection on March 3, 2009
I can’t refrain from commenting on one of the biggest sports stories of the past weekend. In a major trade, the NFL’s New England Patriots sent quarterback Matt Cassel along with linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs, and received one high second round draft pick in return.
The trade is getting a lot of attention in the sports press for three reasons:
1) On its face, it seems like a terrible deal for the Patriots, who are not known for making terrible deals but rather the opposite. Cassel was the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2008 after the early injury to megastar Tom Brady, and by most accounts performed well. Vrabel is a widely respected 12-year veteran and Pro Bowler who, although he is entering the downside of his career, still brings a lot to the table both on the field and as a leader in the locker room.
2) The Chiefs’ new general manager is Scott Pioli, former personnel head for the Patriots. There has been talk that Patriots coach Bill Belichick deliberately gave his friend and former colleague a sweet deal, although he’s not exactly known for doing such things.
3) Apparently, the deal happened after an earlier three-way trade with Denver and Tampa Bay collapsed which would have given the Patriots a first-round draft choice rather than a second-round pick.
Sportswriters are excitedly joining one of three camps – those who feel the Patriots got snookered, those who feel the Patriots gave the Chiefs a sweetheart deal, and those who feel that the Patriots are being underestimated and that the deal ultimately will not prove to be as lopsided as it looks.
I count myself firmly in the latter camp. The Patriots would have had to pay Cassel about $15 million in 2009 if they kept him. With Tom Brady expected to recover in time for the fall season, that is way too much to spend on a backup QB. Thus, the Patriots *had* to trade Cassel. Yet, the market wasn’t flooded with offers for him because of the high price tag, even from teams like Detroit and Minnesota that badly need QB help. The truth is that Cassel performed well in 2008 behind the Patriots’ offensive line, but one good year doesn’t tell us much about how Cassel will perform on a rebuilding team with a shaky offensive line. Pioli drafted Cassel so his interest is stronger than other GMs.
As for Vrabel, he’s a proven commodity, but his on-field performance last year for the Patriots declined noticeably. His value to a team like Kansas City will be higher as a veteran leader with Super Bowl experience.
With the money the Patriots save by trading Cassel, they can go after free agents who could help address weaknesses on the team, such as pass rusher Julius Peppers.
So I think that by this time next year, the trade will not seem as lopsided as it does now. The only part of the deal that might represent a little sentimentality is sending Vrabel to KC on his current contract rather than letting him become a free agent after his value has declined. That’s a fitting tribute to a player that was instrumental in New England’s Super Bowl victories.