Friday, February 6, 2009

Patriots' New Insurance Policy

As expected, on Thursday, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Matt Cassel. If Cassel chooses to sign the offer sheet, he will be guaranteed about 14 million dollars next season. Cassel faces quite the conundrum, he could sign the offer sheet, be set financially, but be a backup or he could refuse and test the free agent waters in hopes of starting. Cassel has said he wants to start but also has claimed to be happy with backing up Tom Brady. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on him going elsewhere.

Cassel is not one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but he could fetch a deal with a signing bonus of about ten to 15 million. Roethlisberger got 25 million last season, half that seems reasonable. In essence, Cassel would be getting his gauranteed money, plus a long term deal and the opportunity to start. Even if it may be for the Lions.

What I find most interesting is the Patriots' concern for Brady's knee injury. We have all heard about the various issues he had up to this point and this offer cements the notion that the Patriots remain concerned. Sinking 14 million cap dollars into a possible backup quarterback is beyond questionable, unless Brady isn't progressing as well as the Patriots would like. The deal also limits their ability to move Cassel, another team could match the franchise tag amount but would then have to pay Cassel and give up two first round picks.

While the Patriots are in a tough situation, they made the right move. More than anything, they bought themselves time. The Patriots can still trade Cassel's rights without him signing the offer sheet, thus allowing Cassel to sign a new deal and start elsewhere without making a team give up their future to do so. At this point the Patriots can sit back, evaluate Brady's progress and make educated decisions concerning the future. This will be one of the main off season stories to keep an eye on.

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