The key assumption is that Cassel really was serious when he said that if the Patriots franchise him, he'll be a Patriot in 2009 (i.e., the Patriots do not plan to trade him in 2009). Signing bonus: $14.6M 2009 salary: $5M 2010 salary: $6.5M 2011 salary: $8M 2012 salary: $9.5M 4-year total: $43.6M Here's why I think this might work, if they were serious: (1) It gives Cassel more first-year money than the franchise tag (an extra $5M). (2) If a new CBA restores the salary cap in 2010, the Patriots should be able to spread out the pain of the extra ~$11M in SB proration over two years, instead of one. (3) If the salary cap goes away, a team would only have to cough up $25M over three years for Cassel. (4) It doesn't completely solve the problem, but it does give the Pats an extra $5M or so in cap room, enough to resign three or four vets. Thoughts?