Patriots Fumble Cassel, Pioli Scores on Pickoff

John GrayCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2009

I expected the Patriots to trade Matt Cassel instead of Tom Brady, but was disappointed to hear how little they got back in return.  

Even the ESPN reporters expected that the No. 3 pick would be involved.  WEEI's Felger said that the Pats would rather have No. 34 than No. 3 anyways, due to the risk and high price involved.  Granted it was better that they gained a second-round pick, rather then letting Cassel go freely, but I expected at least a 2009 second and a third in 2010.

Either the Patriots were very anxious to free themselves and to sign free agents before they got gobbled up, panicked at the chance of being stuck with two $15 million quarterbacks, or there was not much trade demand for Cassel.

Looking at the 2009 draft order, and those teams in need of quarterback, I find it hard to believe that at least 10 teams would not have offered at least the 34th pick of value for Cassel (and Vrabel).

Fifteen teams probably would have had at least some interest in Cassel:

  • Detroit (No. 1, 20, 33): Badly needs a quarterback.
  • St. Louis (No. 2): Need a future quarterback after Marc Bulger.
  • Cincinnati (No. 6): Carson Palmer's future is in question.
  • Seattle (No. 4, 37): They have an aging quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck with an unspectacular backup in Seneca Wallace.
  • Jacksonville (No. 8): Signed David Garrard to big money last year, but he had a bad year in 2008.
  • San Francisco (No. 10): They have serious questions at quarterback.  The Pats did very well with the first-round pick they acquired through the 49ers last year.
  • Buffalo (No. 11): Trent Edwards' post-concussion meltdown brought several questions about his durability and potential.
  • Denver (No. 12): Josh McDaniels is obviously interested in bringing his star pupil with him to Denver, since Cassel knows the playbook and can provide a smooth transition. No brainer.
  • Washington (No. 13): Jason Campbell has not been an overwhelming success, and Dan Snyder loves to make splashes.
  • Jets (No. 17): Brett Favre retired and the Jets need a star quarterback to keep from being a cellar dweller again. Would the Patriots trade to their rival to gain 17 spots?  Obviously not.
  • Chicago (No. 18): Is Kyle Orton the answer?  They have lacked a star quarterback for a generation unless you count Jim McMahon.
  • Tampa Bay (No. 19):  They need a quarterback, and they have the cap space.
  • Vikings (No. 23): They just acquired their future Band-Aid in Sage Rosenfels.
  • Tennessee (No. 30): They resigned Kerry Collins, but he's a short term answer.
  • Arizona (No. 31): They're trying to resign Kurt Warner, and have Matt Leinart on the bench in waiting, but neither may be the long term answer.

How and why did the Pats only settle for the No. 34 pick?  I expected at least one first-round pick in the 20s or similar value.  I also expected an extra pick in 2010 as the Patriots are always stockpiling. 

This proves Pioli was truly the brains behind the draft day wheeling and dealing.  The Patriots were smart enough to gamble by signing Cassel, but fumbled by short changing themselves with so many teams in need of a quality quarterback.

With the news that Tampa was ready to offer their first and third for Cassel to get Jay Cutler, obviously the Patriots front office did not do their due diligence.  They should have called all likely teams one last time before hastily making the deal with Pioli's Kansas City.

It would add insult to injury to Pats management if Pioli grabbed Cassel only to trade him for the first and third of Tampa Bay.

Grabbing Vrabel was the icing on the cake for Pioli to provide veteran leadership to their defense. At least the Pats were smart enough to trade out of their division from the Jets and Bills, though they might have to face Cassel for years to come if he continues to prosper.

The Pats now have three second-round picks to restock themselves at several positions, but I expect them to probably trade at least one of them—the No. 47 or 58—to a weaker team for a high second-round pick in 2010.

The Pats should have traded Cassel and their No. 23 pick for the Chiefs' No. 3 pick. If they were concerned with the high cost of a third pick they could have traded down. Or they could have pulled a Vikings and held the pick down until they got the player they wanted at the draft position they felt he warranted.

Too bad the Pats did not hit the phones a little harder and squeeze out a little more value for Cassel.  The only consolation is if they make a quick, big splash in the free agency with their newfound cap space, which demanded they trade Cassel so quickly and for so fair a price in the No. 34 pick. 

Good luck, Matt Cassel.  Thanks for making the 2008 season worth watching even after Brady took a knee.