They Weren't Smoking: Matt Cassel's Chiefs Extension Makes Perfect Sense

Craig BrownCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 21:  Scott Pioli of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks to the media during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 21, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

What are they thinking? 

How tired are Chiefs fans of hearing that comment already?

Matt Cassel's recent signing of a contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs has stirred up a buzz, and not just with the Chiefs.

The numbers of the deal are staggering for some to believe for a 15-game starter, otherwise a career clipboard carrier.

The terms of the deal are as follows: six years, $63 million, with $28 million guaranteed for the first two years and more than $40 million through the third year.

For a point of reference, I want to outline the deal that JaMarcus Russell signed with the Raiders in 2007: six years, $68 million, with over $31 million guaranteed and more than $44 million over the first four years of the contract.

I don't know about you, but signing an unproven commodity out of college for the same ballpark contract that Cassel was given is simply ludicrous!

One could argue until he or she is blue in the face about Cassel's potential to boom or bust, but frankly that's been hashed and re-hashed to the point of Brett Favre's impending comeback—nauseating. 

I'll leave my opinion at this: Cassel has the desire and skills to become an elite NFL quarterback. Whether that happens, especially this year, is certainly open for disagreement. It's no secret the Chiefs have a challenging year ahead with a brutal schedule and the task of blending together new coaches and players.

Instead, I'd like to provide reasons on why this deal makes sense for the Chiefs.

First, Cassel's deal is heavily front-loaded. Through the first three years, Cassel will have already cleared $40 million, leaving only $23 million over the final three years of the contract. The Chiefs found themselves in the precarious position of being approximately $30 million under the cap for the start of the 2009 season. This deal helps to close the gap while still giving Cassel the bottom line he was seeking.

Second, the NFL is looking at a potentially un-capped 2010 season, opting out of the collective bargaining agreement this spring.

While I'm hoping logic prevails to restore a cap, maintaining Cassel as a franchise player is a dangerous proposition, especially if Scott Pioli, Todd Haley, and the Chiefs believe this is their guy. They would risk losing him after the 2010 season to the highest bidder by playing the "wait and see" card that so many pundits are suggesting.

The Chiefs played the franchise tag game with Jared Allen and lost. In my opinion, the only way you franchise a guy in this day and age is if you absolutely know an extension will get done, but you just didn't have the time to get it done YET.

Third, and most importantly, the extension of Cassel gives the Chiefs a clear direction for their future. By not extending him as quickly as expected, numerous fans and writers, including myself, wondered about the intentions of the franchise.

It appeared that the door was left open, leaving some wiggle room in case they were second-guessing their commitment to Cassel. How do you get a team to buy into your rebuilding of a franchise when the team itself has not bought in?

This contract extension allows the Chiefs to build around Cassel, with a clear vision of what it needs to succeed in the future.

Pioli knows what he's doing. There's no way he commits this kind of money and won't see that success follows. 

As I have mentioned above, the creative structuring of the deal also ensures that Cassel will not handcuff the team near the end of the contract. Finally, someone's thinking ahead!

It's smart money. The chips are all in, and I'm on board.