There are many wondering (myself included) if the Patriots did indeed get maximum value for this weekend’s trade involving quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, who were both shipped off to Kansas City for the Chiefs 2nd-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Unfortunately after having time to digest the circumstances around this deal, I would have to say that this was probably wasn’t as bad as many feel it was. Looking around the league one problem was the fact that the Patriots fell victim to a weak market, with not enough teams involved to drive the price to where they needed it to be. According to Peter King of SI.com, there weren’t a lot of teams making a play for Cassel, but more importantly it seems that Belichick had already made the agreement with new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, and may have been reluctant to start entertaining other offers. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Patriots passed on the 12th overall pick in a three-way trade that would’ve sent Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, we’ve seen before how Belichick values players (and has previously traded down in the early first round when he felt that the right guy wasn’t there), and he simply may not have seen a player that high that he felt would have given him the value for the money that they were looking for.
There’s no question that both Belichick and Pioli have a great relationship, and the odds are pretty good that obviously played a factor in this deal. The other part of doing this deal so soon may have been to also try and give Cassel the most time to get acquainted with the coaching staff and the personnel, along with learning the offensive system. It also sends Cassel to a team that New England doesn’t face off against that frequently.
To me the strangest part of this deal was the need to send Vrabel as part of this package. Considering all we’ve heard this offseason about the market for Cassel, was himself alone not enough? I guess for all we know with the team so close to the salary cap, along with Vrabel’s age, maybe there was already a plan in place to replace him. If they are planning on continuing to infuse more youth at this position, this may have saved Belichick from possibly having to make the tough decision later on to cut Vrabel and make him a salary cap casualty. But heading into the weekend they were reportedly $1.7 million under the salary cap and now have approximately $18-million to work with this early in free agency. So I guess things could be worse.
Let’s face it, if they continue to be a player in the market, odds are probably pretty good that by the time training camp gets here this will be old news. But with the deal now behind him it gives Belichick a chance to start taking a serious look at his defense and plan on how he’ll replace the “smartest player he’s ever coached”. They’re still weak in the secondary, and now are even more thin at linebacker. So I’m sure we can expect some more personnel moves coming that will address them.
Needless to say the offseason continues to get more and more interesting here in New England.
In the meantime here’s a video pointed out by maverick4 from our messageboard of highlights from Cassel’s impressive 2008 campaign.