NBC: Cassel Decision Not Yet Final

Right now, the whole Matt Cassel situation is creating a whirlwind of reports in the national media.  NBC’s Tom Curran reports:

The decision to franchise Matt Cassel has not yet been made, contrary to a weekend report from ESPN.

A source who’ll be directly involved in the call on the Patriots ascendant quarterback said in an email that the report was “speculation,” adding “needless to say, no decision has been made.”

Cassel, who ripped it up in relief of the injured Tom Brady in 2008, will be a free agent Feb. 27 if the Patriots don’t use the franchise tag on him. The earliest they can tag Cassel is Feb. 5 and the latest is Feb. 19.

Even though the final call hasn’t been made, it is – speculatively speaking – more than likely Cassel will be franchised given Brady’s slow recovery in coming back from his ACL/MCL repair.

The Patriots simply won’t know before the free agency period begins whether or not Brady will be ready to start the season. Allowing Cassel to hit the free agent market will leave New England with only second-year man Kevin O’Connell on the roster.

Brady, as we reported last week, is well behind schedule in his rehab from his Oct. 6 surgery. In other words, even though ESPN’s source may be engaging in “speculation” at this point, it’s logical speculation. It’s worth noting, though, that given the condition of Brady’s knee since surgery and the subsequent infection that ravaged it, chances of the team franchising Cassel to trade him are (speculatively speaking) very remote.

Curran goes on to talk about the financial difficulties the Patriots will face if they franchise Cassel:

Meanwhile, it’s been reported that having Brady and a franchised Cassel under contract for 2009 means that a cumbersome 23.5 percent of the $123 million salary cap would be allotted to those two. Making things even tighter for the Pats is the fact that several other key players also have ballooning cap numbers in 2009. Unless restructuring is done, Brady, Cassel, Richard Seymour, Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas, Matt Light and Jarvis Green have 2009 cap hits that add up to approximately $65 million. That would leave New England with just $58 million to pay for the other 46 men on the roster.

Currently, the Patriots have about $101 million allocated to 44 players. If they franchise Cassel, that will be close to $115 million for 45.

Curran stated the obvious in his report, but put a unique spin on the financial situation.  Personally, I don’t think that the Patriots will keep both players on the roster come opening day.  I think if Brady isn’t ready for training camp or the regular season, the Patriots will be forced to move on, as the longer Brady sits, the larger the burden of having him on the team gets.

Of course, the ideal situation would be to franchise Matt Cassel, have Tom Brady be ready, trade Cassel for a first round pick, and avoid the cap hit.  Lets hope.


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