By Ryan "The Guru"
With the announcement over the weekend that Patriots QB Matt Cassel has signed his one-year franchise tender worth $14 million for 2009, the Patriots now have a slight dilemma between their two quarterbacks; incumbent starter Tom Brady (making $8 million in 2009), and the fill-in, Cassel.
So what are the Patriots' options? Let’s take a look at them in more detail:
Keep both quarterbacks
This isn’t a bad option, but only if Brady’s injury is still a problem come training camp in July. Should it look like Brady will miss an extended period of time, possibly rolling into the preseason or even the regular season, then look for the team to keep both on the roster, starting with Cassel as number one on the depth chart and allowing Brady time to rehab back from the injury.
The negative here is that once Brady comes back, the Patriots could be dealing with a quarterback controversy, a la Brady-Bledsoe. However, Cassel, who threw for 3,963 yards and 21 touchdowns, and rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns, has come out publicly and stated that Brady is the starter, but it’s easier to say that during the off-season than in the middle of a season, especially if your team has already turned to you as a starter.
Of course, this is all a moot point if Brady is healthy to go. I doubt the Patriots want to spend twice as much money on a backup as on Brady, and I couldn’t see Brady being a happy camper about his backup making twice as much money as him. Which leads to the next option:
Trade one of the quarterbacks
I doubt New England would get rid of Brady, so for all intents and purposes, let’s say Cassel is on the chopping block. Who would want the guy who hasn’t been a full-time starter since high school? Well, not surprisingly, there are a few teams out there who would be interested, and my short list includes Minnesota, Chicago, San Francisco, and Kansas City.
However, for this trade to work, New England, famous for collecting draft picks, would really want some good stuff for Cassel, and the team would need to be willing to sign Cassel to a long-term deal offer. From that list, I would remove San Francisco (I think Singletary is happy with Shaun Hill) and Kansas City (new GM Scott Pioli spent years finding draft gems for New England, and I highly doubt he’d sell the farm already for Cassel).
That leaves Minnesota and Chicago, and they are both claiming to be happy with their options. Whether or not that is true is for you to decide, but I would imagine a trade happening closer to the draft, as the free agency market plays out and we see which teams make big headlines (i.e., if T.J. Houshmandzadeh ends up in Chicago like he’s talking about, I could see the Bears making a big Cassel run). That leaves a final option:
Cut one of the quarterbacks
This is the least likely situation, as it would require New England to eat some cap money and receive no compensation, so it is highly doubtful they would cut either Brady or Cassel.
It looks like it’s trade Cassel or keep them both. The Patriots can't trade Cassel until free agency begins on February 27, but if I was a betting man, I’d say look for Matt Cassel to have a long term contract, and a new jersey on in 2009.