It wasn’t long ago that Matt Cassel appeared to be an unwanted man. In the final year of his contract, his future with the New England Patriots was in doubt. There were camp competitions and trade rumors, and Bean Town fans were disappointed that he overcame both to make the final roster cut. Then came the unthinkable, Tom Brady collapses on the turf and his season comes to an abrupt end. It was New England’s worst nightmare, as the hopes of their season suddenly weighed on a former USC replacement player that never started a single game.
Cassel is an example of how quickly things can change, and proof that patience is a virtue. Inheriting a situation where failure appeared imminent, and expectations were low, he excelled and succeeded. His timely ascent brings about a reversal of fortune, and the previously unwanted has created whispers and rumors of a possible Tom Brady trade. The Patriots have a future decision to make, and it will ultimately come with a price.
The Pats have choices. They can play for today and allow Matt Cassell to enter the open market at season’s end. That would rest their hopes on speculation that Brady would be healthy enough to start in ’09, and return as the Brady of old. Or they can go with security, slapping Cassel with the franchise tag and preserving him for another season. To franchise Matt Cassel is to give him $14 million next year, which is the total amount Brady will earn over the next two seasons.
Inevitably, it will come down to egos. If arrogance leads them to believe they can develop any quarterback in their system and make him an NFL star, this will be the last time we see Cassel in a Patriots uniform. If they look towards the future, seeing a 32 year old Brady, he may be locked into New England for many years. Either way, a big payday is heading Matt’s way. If not from his current employer, there are plenty of other franchises hungry for a young quarterback, and the unfortunate injury to Brady has unexpectedly increased Cassel’s value. In fact, here in 2008, he’s more valuable than Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, the two Heisman winning quarterbacks that kept him on the Southern Cal bench. Crazy, isn't it?