Report: Pats will franchise Cassel

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Michael Lombardi, a former NFL executive with several teams, reported on this week's edition of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" the New England Patriots will put the franchise tag on Matt Cassel to prevent him from becoming a free agent.

In addressing the New York Jets' precarious quarterback situation, Lombardi was asked if Cassel might be the guy to help them recover from the failed Brett Favre experiment.

"The Patriots are way too smart, and I've talked to people in the organization," said Lombardi, who worked in the Cleveland Browns' front office when Bill Belichick was the coach. "They are going to franchise Matt Cassel. He's an asset and they can control their ability to trade him if they franchise him."

The franchise tag means the Patriots must give Cassel a one-year contract worth an average of the highest five quarterback salaries.

Cassel would make more money than Tom Brady, but the move would provide insurance in case Brady can't rebound from his season-ending left knee injury. Once Brady proves he's fit, the Patriots then could trade Cassel, getting something in return rather than losing him to free agency and coming away empty-handed.

Also on "Inside the NFL," analyst Cris Collinsworth said the curtain has been pulled back on Favre.

"I think [Favre] got discovered," Collinsworth said. "When he was good in Green Bay it was short, quick throws that he got out of his hand quickly. But if he had to, he could go down the field with deep threats at wide receivers.

"The Jets didn't have those same deep threats and Brett didn't have the same arm he had when he was in Green Bay. That combination finally got exposed and it cost them."

Lombardi isn't a big fan of the idea Jets backup Kellen Clemens could step into the role and get them over the hump. The lack of a quarterback is hindering the search for Eric Mangini's replacement.

"The Jets' quarterback of the future is nowhere to be found," Lombardi said. "And that is what makes the Jets job not very attractive for potential coaches. Remember with all these jobs opening, the teams have to recruit the coaches as much as the coaches have to recruit the teams."