As the offseason begins, Gang Green Nation will take a look at potential ways to improve the club. Today we will explore acquiring Matt Cassel.
Profile: Matt Cassel did not start a game from his senior year in high school until his fourth NFL season. While at USC, he backed up Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Despite his few reps in game situations, he had enough talent for the Patriots to take him in the sixth round of the 2005 Draft. He sat on the bench for three years until Tom Brady's ACL injury in the 2008 opener pressed Cassel into duty. Expectations were low since Cassel had not seen a meaningful snap in over half a decade. He had struggled in preseason and was lucky to make the roster by some estimations. Cassel shocked many pundits by leading the Pats to 11 wins and posting an 89.3 passer rating with 21 touchdowns against 11 interceptions and a 63.4 percent completion percentage. It included a 400 yard, 3 touchdown performance against the Jets. This emergence could not have come at a better time since Cassel was in a contract year.
Why It Makes Sense: Cassel just had a good year in the AFC East.
Odds of Happening: A Cassel acquisition looks like a remote possibility right now. The Patriots have already applied the franchise tag. They will either keep him for insurance if they are not confident in Brady's condition or trade him. Bill Belichick is not about to give a division rival a quarterback.
In all honesty, this is just as well. Not to take away from what Cassel did, but there is at least an even chance he was the product of the system. The Pats had the league's best coaching staff mentoring him. They scaled back the offense to limit his mistakes. A lot of guys could have success with Randy Moss drawing double teams, Wes Welker running over the middle, and so much receiving talent occupying the defense that Kevin Faulk is constantly open on checkdown routes. Another AFC East Hall of Fame quarterback went down in 1993. Dan Marino's replacement, Scott Mitchell played great in his absence. He landed a big free agent contract from the Lions and subsequently flopped. A similar fate could await Cassel, who would not have as much in place around him somewhere else. There are glaring warning signs, such as his wild inaccuracy for passes over 10 yards.
Since the Pats have tagged him, the only way the Jets can grab him is by signing him as a free agent. The tag would not prevent this. It would, however, force Gang Green to give up two first round picks to their bitter division rival. The front office will probably not think Cassel is worth it.