FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots have traded linebacker Mike Vrabel and quarterback Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the Chiefs second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft.
"When Mike arrived in 2001, we knew we were adding a solid outside linebacker," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "But where Mike took it from there exceeded our highest hopes. Mike Vrabel epitomizes everything a coach could seek in a professional football player: toughness, intelligence, playmaking, leadership, versatility and consistency at the highest level. Behind the scenes, Mike's wit and personality is one of the things we have all enjoyed about coming to work every day. The toughest aspect of my job is the day I stop coaching people like Mike, who did everything in his power to contribute to team success. Of all the players I have coached in my career, there is nobody I enjoyed working with more than Mike. In the same way people recognize guys like Troy Brown, we appreciate and thank Mike Vrabel. He is one of the very special Patriots champions."
As for Matt Cassel, Coach Belichick added, "It is very easy to root for guys like Matt Cassel, who do everything the right way and flourish as a result. As much as we would have loved to continue working with Matt, we wish him nothing but the best as he takes this next step forward in his career."
Mike Vrabel, 33, was signed by the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, 2001, and played eight seasons in New England from 2001-08. The 6-foot-4-inch, 261-pound linebacker served as a team captain for four seasons from 2005-08, and in 2007 earned Pro Bowl honors and a spot on the Associated Press All-Pro First Team.
Vrabel played in 125 regular-season games for the Patriots with 110 starts, recording 638 tackles (422 solo), 11 interceptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, 34 passes defensed, 13 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 24 special teams tackles. He recorded 48.0 sacks in a Patriots uniform, a total that ranks seventh on the team's all-time career list. He also appeared in 17 playoff games (17 starts) with New England, including three Super Bowl victories, and had 93 postseason tackles (63 solo), 7.0 sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His seven career playoff sacks rank second on the Patriots' all-time playoff list. Additionally, Vrabel occasionally lined up as a tight end in goal-line situations and caught 10 passes, all for touchdowns, including eight in the regular season, one in Super Bowl XXXVIII and one in Super Bowl XXXIX.
The Ohio State product was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round (91st overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft and played four seasons with Pittsburgh (1997-2000), during which he appeared in 51 games on special teams and as a situational pass rusher. In his first season with the Patriots in 2001, he played in every game with 12 regular-season starts and also started all three playoff games. In the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVI victory, he provided pressure on Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, forcing an errant throw that Ty Law intercepted and returned 47 yards for the Patriots' first touchdown of the game. In 2003, he led the team with 9.5 sacks and was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December as the Patriots recorded two December shutouts. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, Vrabel led the team with 2.0 sacks – including one on which he forced a turnover – and caught a touchdown pass with 2:51 left in the game to give the Patriots a 29-22 lead in a game they won, 32-29. In 2004, Vrabel recorded a then-career high 76 tackles and his 5.5 sacks ranked second on the team. In Super Bowl XXXIX, he recorded a sack and his second Super Bowl touchdown reception as the Patriots won their third title in four years. In 2005, he was voted a captain by his teammates for the first time and led the team with a career-best 114 tackles while moving from outside linebacker to inside linebacker for the season's final 13 games. In 2006, he once again broke the 100-tackle mark, finishing the season with 101 stops and adding a career-high three interceptions. In 2007, he earned a Pro Bowl nod while setting a career high with 12.5 sacks – the third-highest single-season total in team history and the highest for a Patriot in 20 years. He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week following an Oct. 28, 2007 performance against Washington that included three strip-sacks and a touchdown reception in a 52-7 Patriots win. Last season, Vrabel played in 16 games with 14 starts and finished third on the team with 4.0 sacks while placing fifth on the team with 67 tackles (36 solo).
Matt Cassel, 26, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round (230th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound quarterback started the final 15 games of the 2008 season for the Patriots following a season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady in the first quarter of the season opener against Kansas City. Cassel completed 327-of-516 passes (63.4 pct.) for 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, compiling a passer rating of 89.4. His 63.4 percent completion rate was the third-highest in franchise history and his completion total and passer rating ranked sixth in single-season franchise annals. Additionally, his passing yardage total placed eighth in team history and his 21 touchdowns were the most by a Patriots quarterback in his first year as a full-time starter since Tony Eason had 23 touchdown passes in 1984. Additionally, Cassel threw for 400 or more yards in back to back games on Nov. 13 and Nov. 23, becoming just the fifth quarterback in NFL history to have 400 or more passing yards in consecutive games. Against the New York Jets on Nov. 13, Cassel threw for 400 yards and also ran for 62 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to have at least 400 passing yards and 60 rushing yards in the same game. For the season, Cassel rushed for 270 yards and two touchdowns, recording the fifth-highest rushing total for a quarterback in Patriots history and the highest total since Steve Grogan had 368 rushing yards in 1979. Cassel was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week on two occasions in 2008 (Week Seven and Week 12). His contributions helped the Patriots offense average 365.4 total net yards per game – the third highest total for any season in franchise history – as New England totaled three of the top six single-game net yardage totals in team history, exceeding 500 total net yards in three separate games. Cassel helped the Patriots produce three games with 47 or more points, and New England's 356 first downs led the NFL and stand as the second highest total in team history.
In his first three seasons in New England (2005-07), Cassel played in 14 games with no starts and completed 22-of-39 passes (56.4 percent) for 253 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. In his four-year career, Cassel has played in 30 games with 15 starts and has completed 349-of-555 passes (62.9 percent) for 3,946 yards, 23 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, compiling a career passer rating of 85.9.
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