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Ask PFW: Whither Cassel

The future status of Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel highlights this edition of Ask PFW.

I know you have been answering a lot of these but after another good game from Matt Cassel I think it would become even more realistic that franchising and then trading him could be an option. Also, if that were to happen what do you think is a realistic price we'd get if he did take us to the playoffs and continued his form?
James Sully

That's a great question. Quarterbacks who have done less than Cassel at the NFL level have received pretty sizable contracts - Matt Schaub started two games in Atlanta and that was enough to convince Houston to give him $20 million over the first three years of a $60-plus million deal. Several years back Rob Johnson played one game for Jacksonville and the Bills handed him the keys to the offense along with a lucrative deal. But while Cassel has three quarters of a season under his belt, he did not have the college resumes those guys had. It was that work that earned those guys jobs more so than their time as backups. Cassel has performed well and assuming he continues to produce (not throwing for 400 yards every week, but producing) he will be a valued commodity. Franchising him will be a tough decision for the team. That will require more than $14 million of cap space, which the Patriots would need regardless of whether or not he signs the tender. A team has to have the cap room to use the franchise tag and that's a lot of space. Then they would need to broker the deal, and teams may not be willing to fork over compensation in addition to the big-money deal that Cassel would likely be looking for. If that happens, then what do the Patriots do with two quarterbacks earning eight-figure cap hits? That's not a scenario the team intends to encounter. As for trade value, I would think the Patriots asking price would start at a first-round pick and probably include some others (a third maybe). For a starting quarterback, I wouldn't think that price would be too high.
Paul Perillo

Can you guys explain to me what it means to put a transition tag on a player? What do you think we could realistically get for Cassel?
Mike Anderson

There are slight differences between the franchise and transition tags and they are as follows: a franchise player receives the average salary of the top five players at his position while the transition player gets the average of the top 10. Also, if a franchise player is signed by another team, the original club is entitled to two first-round picks as compensation while a the transition player's team is not entitled to any compensation. Teams can only use the transition tag on two players while the franchise tag can only be used on one per offseason.
Paul Perillo

I read that someone asked if the Pats could put the franchise tag on him then trade him. My question is if they do that then will they be able to put the franchise tag on another player on their team? Or is it one and done.
Matt Lucia

They can put the tag on Cassel and then trade him, as alluded to above, but if that's the case that would be the team's one and only use of it for the offseason. Once the deadline passes to use the tag, only one player can have that designation. So any trade would have to take place after that deadline, therefore a team couldn't use it again.
Paul Perillo

Remember the fans bellowing to dump Cassel and sign Dante Culpepper? Kudos to you at PFW for shooting that one down as accurately as you did. Culpepper looks wildly out of shape, and the double wristbands indicate he is baffled by the playbook. And we all know how Cassel's worked out. You deserve credit for being right much more often than not.
Will Bortolin

We appreciate the support but won't be getting too excited about it. It's only a matter of time until the next one of these issues goes the other way. We've had more than our share of mistakes in dealing with these situations in the past, so we won't get too carried away. I felt Cassel was much better in the preseason than he was given credit for - not that he was great. I just felt there was no way he was going to get cut, and Belichick obviously felt the same way.
Paul Perillo

OK, why did Randy Moss get flagged for spiking the ball but whenever a player from another team does it, nothing happens?Caleb R.

I'm not sure what play you are referring to with regards to Moss getting flagged for spiking the ball. Moss has one penalty this season and it was for pass interference. My guess is you're talking about his third touchdown against Miami when there was a flag thrown after he caught the pass. But the penalty was against Andre Goodman for pass interference, not on Moss.
Paul Perillo

One of the hallmarks of this team under coach Belichick has been intelligence and discipline. These penalties are killers and could end up costing the team a playoff spot. One already figured prominently in the Colts loss. It seems to me that there have many more 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct this year than in the past. Are there any stats to back this impression up?
John Trainor

Your eyeballs have not deceived you, John. The Patriots have been guilty of more personal fouls and unnecessary roughness penalties this year than in the past. Through 11 games, the Patriots were flagged 13 times for unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness (personal fouls) penalties. Last year they only had nine for the entire regular season. So your impression is spot on.
Paul Perillo

When I see the brilliant performances by Matt Cassel particularly in the last two games, and the way he gained strength and confidence through the season, I cant help but wonder how next season will turn out for him, with Tom Brady returning. Do you think he will continue as a backup until his turn comes again, or try to go elsewhere?
Paul Montarras

My guess is Cassel will not be playing in New England in 2009. Assuming he's fully recuperated from his knee injury, Brady will return and Cassel will explore free agency in one manner or another (see franchise talk above). Cassel will go somewhere to be the starting quarterback while Brady will remain the face of New England's franchise.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, I have a record-book question... What's the longest third-down conversion ever given up by an NFL defence? Do you think the Pats defence has a shot at the record? I like our chances.
Dana Pero

I'm still waiting for the magic to happen with the defensive backfield. I realize there were issues that we will never know why Asante Samuel was not re-signed but the present group cannot cover anyone very well. More pressure from the front line would help but still wouldn't fix the issues of close coverage and tackling problems. What's your thoughts or do we wait until next year?
Darrell Veilleux

I agree the secondary hasn't performed well this season. I don't think it's something that's going to be magically fixed overnight. The Patriots need more talented cover men and that's why I was concerned when they allowed Asante Samuel to go to Philadelphia. And I'm not sure what the unknown issues were regarding that situation. It was pretty straightforward - the Eagles made an offer and he accepted. Not much of a DaVinci Code with that one. But the Patriots were left without enough quality cover men, in my mind, to deal with the majority of passing games in the NFL. That's reflected by the ease with which opposing teams have moved the ball through the air against New England. The best hope for the future would be for some of the young guys the team drafted recently (Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Mike Richardson) to blossom with experience and become quality defensive backs. Otherwise, they're going to need an influx of personnel to overhaul the secondary from scratch.
Paul Perillo

I didn't think it was a possibility, but let's just say that the Patriots go to the Super Bowl game against let's say the New York Giants and with 1:39 and two timeouts Matt Cassel leads them on a last-second touchdown drive to win. Is it possible that Cassell will be the starting quarterback from here on out, and even if the Patriots don't go to the Super Bowl is it possible that 31-year-old Tom Brady has played his last game as a Patriots?

As Celtics great Kevin Garnett would say, "Anything is possible!" But I don't think that scenario is very likely. Cassel has done a terrific job in relief but I don't see him playing at Brady's level. Maybe that could happen over the course of time, but unless Brady suffers from the effects of the knee injury, I'd stand pat with the reigning NFL MVP. If Cassel were to perform what you suggest, then that would leave him two behind Brady in that department. And two of those three titles Brady won came as a result of last-second drives. I'll stick with Brady and take my chances.

I doubted him due to his preseason performance (had always thought very well of him until then), but Matt Cassel has proven all his doubters wrong. As he said, he just needed to play to adjust to the speed of the game, which only playing can bring. I particularly like his obvious desire to win, and superior mobility. If he continues to excel and get better each game, the Patriots obviously have a dilemma. The question is: Why is it so out of the question for the Patriots to trade Tom Brady and keep Matt Cassel? Cassel took hardly any pounding in his career up until this season, and is what, 4-5 years younger? Tom Brady couldn't even bother to train in the offseason, hurt his right foot surfing (i.e. the real reason he couldn't play in the preseason) and ended up not being able to even play a quarter. Then, he goes to some second-rate surgeon (Forget the supposed rep, see the real results) and facility that does a very poor job and he may never be the same. If nothing else, he's way behind schedule. Also, it is apparent by his statements ("football is not important"), that he's lost his strongest feature, i.e., the will and desire to win. Why not move Brady? He admittedly doesn't care anymore. Look, he is great, could have been THE GREATEST of all time, then threw it all away as he developed his "I don't care, it's only football, I don't want to bother to put in the work" attitude. Please don't give a knee jerk Brady defense and offer an actual thoughtful response. No, at this moment I don't believe Cassel is the better player. I would say, that to win , your quarterback has to have the desire. Cassel has it, Brady threw it away. Also, how good could Cassel be in a few years, when Brady is declining, or just decides that football isn't worth it, as his new attitude suggests? A trade of Brady for two or three established players, and more would leave the Patriots set for the future. Unthinkable?? I hope not. The Tom Brady of the last year and a half isn't worth letting Cassel go. Honestly, I believe Brady owes the fans and organization an apology for his lack of commitment. Thoughts??
Chris Casey

Thoughts? I think you're in need of a prozac the size of Gillette Stadium, but admittedly that would be my knee-jerk response. I love to save the "best" for last for "Ask PFW" so here it is, folks. I'm going to leave most of my opinions out of this because I just wrote that I felt Brady is much better than Cassel so there's no need to rehash that here. But I'm going to offer some facts to shoot down your ludicrous theories. First, when did we learn "the real" reason Brady didn't play in the preseason was a foot injury suffered surfing?? I wasn't aware that was common knowledge. Second, when did Brady say he didn't care about football? He said football wasn't the only important thing in life and other stuff about God not creating football. That's not the same thing as what you said. You make it out that Brady wishes he didn't have to play, which anybody watching the man compete would know is ridiculous. Third, the doctor's "supposed rep" was a problem? How did you make that determination? The guy worked with several big-time athletes during his career. Infections happen in surgery all the time. It's not limited to Tom Brady and wasn't necessarily the result of a botched procedure by a doctor that wasn't qualified. You asked for a thoughtful response but I honestly don't know why I should have to do that when you offered very little thought in your post. You make a bunch of blind assumptions with no real substance to back up any of your points. That's irresponsible on your part. So for me to say that I'd take Brady is one thing. For you to make up a bunch of unfounded rumors about him, and then suggest that he owes you an apology is quite another. Not to mention the fact that you admitted that two months ago you thought Cassel should have been cut. That makes you a real reliable judge of talent.
Paul Perillo

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