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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Cassel's deal gives Chiefs long-term answer at QB

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's John Clayton

Matt Cassel might not be a big name in quarterback circles, but his signing of a six-year, $63 million contract Tuesday has huge ramifications for the Kansas City Chiefs.

 
  John Rieger/US Presswire
  After inking his new deal, Matt Cassel can concentrate on football.

1. It gives the Chiefs long-term security at QB: They surrendered a second-round pick to the New England Patriots for Cassel (and veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel). It was the 34th pick in the 2009 draft, so it would have been a horrible strategy to give up that pick and then lose Cassel to free agency next season if he has a good year. Plus, it also doesn't make sense to have him on the salary-cap books for $14.65 million this season when there was a chance to get a long-term deal. Right or wrong, Cassel is the player new Chiefs GM Scott Pioli believes is a franchise quarterback. Pioli had to get him signed to a long-term deal.

2. Cassel had to be signed to "the right number." Since arriving from New England himself, Pioli is trying to establish organization policy in Kansas City. In New England, Bill Belichick and Pioli established a system in which the players -- even the best players -- didn't get top dollar. They were paid fairly, but the Patriots wanted to make sure that they can afford to keep quality players on the team. They needed cap room to do that.

Cassel was in a leverage position on a one-year deal to command more than the six-year, $63 million pact he agreed to with the Chiefs. With another season comparable to his 2008 breakout performance, Cassel could have commanded more next winter in free agency. Clearly, he wants to be in Kansas City. Pioli held firm in trying to get the average salary number around $10 million a year. He was successful.

Cassel now ranks in the middle of the pack as far as starting quarterback average salaries go. That's fair. He's only started one season.

Philip Rivers and Eli Manning are in the final years of their contracts. If they get long-term deals, the price of signing quarterbacks goes that much higher. The time was right to do a deal. This was an important negotiation for the team and the Chiefs did well.

3. Finally, Cassel now can concentrate on football and not worry about finances. That's huge for a quarterback. Plus, his signing completes an incredible story.

In 2008, Cassel had a terrible preseason. The Patriots weren't sure if he was the right backup for Tom Brady. When Brady was lost for the season in Week 1, Cassel stepped up and had a Pro Bowl caliber campaign. As he was set to enter free agency in February, the Patriots put a franchise tag on him before finally deciding to trade him.

After making the NFL minimum as a seventh-round draft choice, Cassel was suddenly rich with the $14.65 million salary the franchise tag commanded for this season. With his new deal, Cassel is financially secure for the next six years.

Just for the record, Cassell's average annual salary still is less than Brady's $11.4 million average yearly paycheck.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.