The Matt Cassel Trade: A Conspiracy Theory

Ryan HoganCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2009

The truth is out there.

The New England Patriots traded quarterback Matt Cassel and 12-year veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round draft pick, the 34th overall.

This trade obviously indicates that the Patriots are confident in Tom Brady’s return after losing him to a season-ending injury in 2008. This trade may also indicate a vast NFL conspiracy of epic proportions.

OK, that is a hyperbole and a much more dramatic way of saying "collusion."

The man calling the shots for the Chiefs is Scott Pioli. He joined the team in January after working for the Patriots’ organization since 2002 as their President of Player Personnel.

(Cue eerie Twilight Zone music).

The Patriots put a franchise tag on Cassel, meaning any team that signed the former USC backup quarterback would have to give New England two first-round draft picks.

By trading Cassel to Kansas City, the Patriots avoid paying him $14.65 million.

The Chiefs get a quarterback they desperately need. Cassel threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2008. During that year, the Chiefs paraded out Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, and Tyler Thigpen (or the three geeks from the X-files known as “The Lone Gunmen").

To further the point, three other teams were in the mix: the Denver Broncos, the Detroit Lions, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So, we are to believe that none of the aforementioned teams, two of which desperately need a quarterback, were willing to give up more than a second-round pick for Cassel?

Put on your tin foil hats because here is how the conspiracy transpired:

Pioli and the Patriots knew Pioli was going to get a general manager job in 2009.

Pioli knew whatever team was going to hire him would need a quarterback, and he wanted Cassel.

The Patriots did not want to keep Cassel and pay for two starting NFL quarterbacks if they were sure Brady was healthy.  However, if Brady was not healthy, they wanted to keep Cassel.

So at Piloi’s behest, the Patriots put the franchise tag on Cassel, which was a price tag Piloi was willing to pay regardless of which team hired him.

With Cassel franchised, this made Cassel unattractive to other teams since they would have to give up two first-round draft picks if they signed him. 

If a team did sign Cassel, great, they get two first-round picks as compensation.  If no team wanted to sign him, they already had a deal with Pioli.

This scenario bought the Patriots two more months to see how Brady was healing.  When free agency rolled around, they realized Brady was healthy, therefore, Cassel was no longer needed.  So, as per their original, furtive agreement, the Patriots traded Cassel to Pioli for a measly second-round pick.

This was all worked out between the two parties sometime in late December or early January. Chris Mortensen announced Cassel would be franchised on Jan. 4, and it became official on Feb. 5.  Pioli’s hiring was confirmed as Chiefs new general on Jan. 13, 2009.

While this article may seem like another anti-Patriot exegesis, these types of trades happen frequently, not only in the NFL but in all of professional sports.

Yet, these trades are greeted with zero complaints and complete lack of outrage.  

Two entities, with a wink and a nod, may have conspired to complete an unfair trade with major league-wide ramifications and no one seems to care.

An investigation by the league would be appreciated, but they will not find anything. How can you prove collusion in a league built on cronyism?

Still, it is hard to believe that this trade did not germinate while Pioli was still a Patriot. 

It is also tough to believe that Pioli does not owe his former team a big favor.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to have a smoke with the cigarette-smoking man and wait for the black helicopters to arrive.


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