Matt Cassel: Handicapping His Future

Scott BrownCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2009

I honestly believe that the most intriguing plot line this offseason is going to be what happens to Matt Cassel. I know that might seem strange coming from a card-carrying member of the Colts fan club, but Cassel's future is completely up in the air. Plus, his future has major reprecussions on the league.

The New England Patriots almost never get caught with their pants down when it comes to player personnel decisions. You cannot win three Super Bowls in four years without making wise choices.

The Patriots' front office is probably sitting pretty with multiple options for their $14.6 million quarterback. Let us explore the most likely scenarios, which I have narrowed down to five.


Scenario 1 - Cassel goes to Kansas City

Why this will happen

I rank this as the most probable scenario. Given that Scott Pioli is now the guy making decisions in KC, and the Chiefs have a gaping hole at the quarterback position, it would seem likely that the Chiefs are interested.

I believe it is much easier to fill other holes in your lineup via the draft than the QB position. So, picking at No. 3, the Chiefs likely pass on Stafford and select someone to shore up the offensive line.

Plus, if anyone has chance to get a fair shake from the Patriots, it is Pioli. Whatever price they end up paying, you can bet it will be less than what anyone else would have to pay.

Reasons why this will not happen

The Patriots may not come down in their asking price of a first-round draft pick, and it is possible that Cassel will refuse to sign a long-term contract with the Chiefs.

Either way, we will know where the Chiefs stand on Draft Day. If they take Stafford or Sanchez, then we know that Cassel is not in the picture. If they pass on either quarterback, then it would suggest they have an alternative in place.

Odds for those keeping score at home - 3-1


Scenario 2 - Cassel goes to San Francisco

Why this will happen

Here is where I invite everyone to go out on a limb with me. With all due respect to the Minnesota Vikings, there is no team in the NFL that needs a quarterback more than San Francisco.

I differentiate between the two only because there are some people in Minnesota who feel Tarvaris Jackson could be the guy. Whereas in San Francisco, there is nobody that believes Alex Smith or Shaun Hill is the answer at quarterback.

Plus, San Francisco is closer to Cassel's hometown than Minnesota. Matt Cassel is a California boy, and he may want to move back to the West Coast.

Finally, the 49ers have something that Minnesota does not, an enticing first-round pick. New England would move to the No. 10 spot in the draft and have their pick of several quality players in positions they desperately need to fill (LB, DL, RB). 

San Francisco could realistically stay in the first round at New England's No. 23 spot and still draft a quality wide receiver to help their new quarterback.

Presumably, Cassel would be willing to negotiate a long-term deal with the Niners.

Why this will not happen

San Francisco could see someone they like at No. 10 and decide not to trade down. Mike Singletary is a defense guy and there are some quality players on defense this year.  He might not get what he is looking for further down the draft. 

This has almost no chance of happening if New England is not willing to swap picks. I cannot see San Francisco dealing themselves completely out of the first round, given the number of holes they have on both sides of the ball.

It could cost them the swap and a later pick, but I do not think they even discuss this trade unless they are getting the No. 23 pick from the Patriots.

Odds for those keeping score at home - 5-1


Scenario 3 - Cassel goes to Washington

Why this will happen

Let us be honest here. Washington has a history of not taking the draft seriously. If there is a team out there that is going to give up a first-round pick to the Patriots, it is probably those crazy Redskins. 

This swap also accomplishes the Patriots' goal of moving up in the draft, although I do not think they want to pick behind Denver. Since they have similar weaknesses, these two teams will vie for the same prospects.

This deal makes sense for Washington only because they play in a division that has three other strong quarterbacks. A deal for Cassel has the potential to close that gap sooner rather than later.

Why this will not happen

This deal only happens if the Redskins overpay. I do not think the Patriots are all that better off at No. 13 than they are at No. 23, so unless they get something else, I just do not see them jumping at this offer. 

Still, Cassel can make the biggest impact on the Redskins, as he has the potential to push an 8-8 team into the playoffs. Any other destination I have him lined up for is a work-in-progress team that needs a solid QB to start rebuilding.

Odds for those keeping score at home - 10-1


Scenario 4 - Cassel goes to Houston

Why this will happen: This trade only happens if it becomes evident that the Patriots cannot get a first-round pick for Cassel. This trade accomplishes two things that absolutely no other team can offer the Patriots in lieu of a higher spot in the first round.

First, Houston is the only team that has two quarterbacks they can ship to New England that have actual game experience. Plus, both quarterbacks have cap-friendly salaries, which gives New England a much cheaper insurance policy if Brady cannot recover from his injury  (Sage Rosenfels at $1.5 million or Schaub at $5.75 million).

While Rosenfels would be the most likely player to get moved, it would not be a deal-breaker if Houston wants to rid themselves of Schaub, rather than have him and Cassel fight it out for the starter's position.

The second thing this accomplishes for the Patriots is that it makes a division rival of the Colts just a little bit more formidable. I am not saying that is a determining factor in where they put Cassel, but you have to assume that nobody in New England would shed a tear if the Texans improve and cost the Colts one, or possibly two, games next year.

Why this will not happen

I do not think this happens because New England has to play the AFC South this year. In addition, for the same reason I ruled out Buffalo and the Jets, I am inclined to  disregard any team from the AFC.

I am also not convinced the Texans are ready to give up on Matt Schaub. They brought him in from Atlanta with much fanfare and to discard him before this season might seem like throwing in the towel a little early. 

That being said, if they stick with him and he does not pick up his game this year, the people who made that decision are going to have some explaining to do. So, Schaub is on his last leg in Houston. 

Odds for those keeping score at home - 20-1


Scenario 5 - Cassel stays in New England

Why this will happen

Maybe New England knows or fears that all is not well with Tom Brady.  Perhaps they saw the Colts struggle early last year when Manning came back from his injury and do not want to leave themselves vulnerable. Maybe they saw how much Carson Palmer has struggled since his knee injury.

Regardless, if the Patriots are not blown away by an offer for Cassel or have any doubts about Brady, then they will eat the cost and keep him on the roster. This team is built to win now, and when you are built to win now, you do not screw around with the quarterback position.

Why this will not happen

Seriously, $14.6 million for your backup QB? Are we not in a recession? I am sure the money that the Patriots would be paying their backup QB could almost cover what GM Canada needs to keep operating. 

While I do not think the Patriots tagged Cassel with the intention of keeping him, we cannot rule it out completely. However, there are other options available if they are working on a backup for Brady. Plus, these options will cost them far less than $15 million, so it seems the point of tagging him was to ensure they got something in return for their investment.

Odds for those keeping score at home - 50-1