NFL Nation: Cassell trade

ESPN's Mark Schlereth discusses what the Matt Cassel trade means to the Patriots and the Chiefs.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New England Patriots fans must have had two immediate, positive reactions when they learned their club on Saturday dealt Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs:

  1. A strong assurance that Tom Brady's surgically repaired left knee must be fine, or the Patriots wouldn't have made the trade.
  2. Exhilaration over suddenly having about $19 million to spend in the early stages of the free-agency period.

Two of the ways they can spend it immediately are by signing more free agents or extending contracts of players already on their roster.

A lot of talent still is available on the open market. I hesitate to cobble together a list of the more prominent players still out there because it probably will be outdated within minutes.

Feel free to share your ideas of who you think the Patriots should sign. Enter those names in the comments section below.

Here are some of the Patriots who are entering the final year of their contracts:

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Denver Broncos may have seriously damaged their relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler.

A source close to the situation confirmed the Broncos were trying to acquire quarterback Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots by dangling Cutler, their Pro Bowl quarterback.

The trade talk infuriated Cutler, who now wants to leave the Broncos.

The source said the proposed trade was a three-way deal that would have sent Cassel to Denver to reunite with former Patriots offensive coordinator and new Denver head coach Josh McDaniels, Cutler to Tampa Bay and compensation from Tampa Bay to New England.

Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded Saturday to Denver's AFC West rival Kansas City for a second-round pick.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that the Broncos pursued the trade because McDaniels wanted to be reunited with Cassel, who excelled under McDaniels last season as an injury replacement for Tom Brady.

In the aftermath of the trade Saturday, Cutler asked permission to find his own trade partner but was denied by the Broncos, according to the source. Cutler is still hopeful he will be traded because he feels betrayed by McDaniels, the source said.

The source said Denver is no longer interested in dealing Cutler, who made the Pro Bowl in 2008, his second full season as a starter. The source said Tampa Bay, Detroit and Chicago could be possible destinations if Cutler gets his way and is traded. The source pointed out that until Cutler heard about the trade talks Saturday, he was completely happy playing for McDaniels and being in Denver.

It may be difficult for Denver to trade Cutler now because there are no other quality quarterbacks available. It would be silly to trade him to the Lions for the No. 1 overall pick and try to draft Georgia's Matthew Stafford or USC's Mark Sanchez. Neither of those players is a known commodity, while Cutler has blossomed into one of the NFL's better quarterbacks.

Denver has to regain Cutler's trust immediately or this could turn into one of the NFL's uglier situations.

The source said that while Denver hopes to smooth the situation over, Cutler probably will seek to depart Denver as a restricted free agent in two years. Cutler signed a six-year deal with the Broncos after he was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick in 2006.

The source said Cutler was hurt by the news that McDaniels wanted to start his Denver tenure with Cassel and not him. 

"The relationship has been tarnished," the source said. "I think it's beyond repair."

Cutler expressed displeasure when Denver fired coach Mike Shanahan in December. However, he has been publicly supportive of McDaniels and had several good meetings with the coach in the weeks since McDaniels took over. The source said Cutler was confused by the trade talk.

"It's like a knife to Jay's heart," the source said. "It will be hard for him to get past this."

McDaniels will be able to get past this issue, but it may take some time. The Broncos sold McDaniels' hiring as a chance for Cutler to flourish. Seven weeks later, the pairing has taken a sudden and potentially disastrous turn.

Update: Here is more from Denver Post, including comments from Cutler.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

When word first broke that the Kansas City Chiefs had acquired quarterback Matt Cassel from the New England Patriots, I assumed it would involve the No. 3 overall pick.

So, I was wrapping myself around that concept trying to decide if it was a good deal or not. I could understand the Chiefs giving up the choice for their new franchise quarterback but I still couldn't decide whether it was a good deal or not.

Matt Cassel
Quarterback
Kansas City Chiefs

2008 STATS
YDS CMP% TD INT RAT
3,693 63.4 21 11 89.4

Then I got the press release from the Chiefs explaining the deal: The Chiefs got Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel from the Patriots for their second-round pick, which is the No. 34 overall pick in the April draft.

I needed no more time to come to a conclusion: This was an outstanding deal for the Chiefs.

There really is no risk here. Look, we don't know if Cassel is going to be a superstar player. Yes, he looked good in his time as Tom Brady's replacement in New England. But he had a terrific supporting cast and superb coaching.

It is unclear whether Cassel, who reunites with general manager Scott Pioli in Kansas City, can have the same impact on a much weaker Kansas City team. But he will at least be serviceable and capable of having a big game here and there. And don't discount the possibility of Cassel being outstanding in Kansas City.

The Chiefs have a decent offense and new head coach Todd Haley is known for his success in the passing game. Cassel does have a chance to be just as good as he was in New England.

This was a deal Kansas City had to do considering what it gave up. Now, the Chiefs know they have their quarterback question answered and they still have the No. 3 overall pick to upgrade their defense. Right now, a good guess is that Kansas City will take Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with its first-round pick.

To think the Chiefs can go to training camp with both Cassel and Curry has to be very enticing to the team. It appeared highly unlikely that would be the case.

Because of an expected high price tag on Cassel it was long my stance that the Chiefs should wait on getting a quarterback and stick with Tyler Thigpen for another year. I also thought the Chiefs should stay away from drafting a quarterback in the first round. I figured Thigpen could try to prove himself while the Chiefs, in dire need of help on the defensive side of the ball, draft a defensive player at No. 3.

In one trade, the Chiefs just improved in several areas: They got better at quarterback, backup quarterback, linebacker (in the form of Vrabel) and whichever position they'll use the No. 3 pick on.

There's no denying it. The Chiefs had to make this trade.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

  Cassel

The 34th overall selection in this year's draft sure sounds like a bargain for the Kansas City Chiefs. That's all they gave the New England Patriots to obtain quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel.

Sound a little cheap to you?

About seven weeks ago, I explored Cassel's trade value with a pair of analysts who've been around the NFL block a time or two.

Floyd Reese was one of them. The former Tennessee Titans general manager was working for ESPN at the time.

Now he's senior football adviser with the Patriots, coming aboard when Scott Pioli left to accept the Chiefs' GM job.

Here's what Reese said back then: "It would have to be multiple choices and very high choices to get Cassel. Two first-rounders, or a one and a two and a three ... It'll be something very, very expensive."

Cassel hadn't been franchised yet, but it was common knowledge the tag was coming. So the element of unloading $14.65 million in guaranteed money was considered in the responses.

I also spoke with Michael Lombardi of the National Football Post.

Lombardi has a strong relationship with many in Patriots management, including coach Bill Belichick, from their days together with the Cleveland Browns. Lombardi was the first to report the Patriots were going to place the franchise tag on Cassel.

Lombardi claimed Cassel's starting price -- not including Vrabel -- should be the draft choices the San Diego Chargers received for Eli Manning.

At the 2004 draft, the New York Giants acquired Manning's rights for Philip Rivers' rights along with a third-round pick that year and their first- and fifth-round picks in 2005.

"Whatever the Giants gave up for Eli has to be the market," Lombardi said. "It's got to be a first-rounder, and not the 22nd or 24th pick in the draft. It has to be a substantial one and one that keeps on giving."

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The New England Patriots have released a statement to confirm they have traded quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for the 34th overall selection in this year's draft.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued the following comment about Vrabel, a fan favorite who won three Super Bowls and made his only Pro Bowl while wearing a Patriots helmet:

"When Mike arrived in 2001, we knew we were adding a solid outside linebacker. 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."

Belichick gave a shorter comment about Cassel, who spent four seasons with the Patriots but started only last year:

"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."

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