The Patriots have traded Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to Scott Pioli and the Chiefs for the 34th pick in the Draft.
After putting the franchise tag on Matt Cassel as insurance for their two-time Super Bowl MVP, the Patriots shipped Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City on Saturday. The Chiefs gave up shockingly little -- the 34th overall pick in the April draft for both players.
The Chiefs have the third overall selection following a franchise-worst 2-14 season. In yielding their second-round draft choice, they acquire a reliable 12-year veteran linebacker and a proven young quarterback who could immediately fill one of their most urgent needs.
The trading of Vrabel is shocking. He seemed like Mr. Patriot, a prototype of what Bill Belichick wants. Vrabel was versatile. He could play any linebacker spot on the field, saw some action of offense (I'll never forget watching him burn David Barrett twice on touchdown receptions in person in a 2005 game), and seemed like a model citizen. He also had incredible intellect on the field. In addition, Vrabel's leadership will be missed in that locker room. This loss by no means destroys the Pats. Every year, they let key veterans go and never seem to take a hit. Just look at this past season when it seemed like their entire starting lineup was out. The coaching staff still won 11 games through smoke and mirrors. Belichick will keep that team competitive no matter what. Still, nobody should be shedding a tear to see an integral cog leave town. Perhaps the Pats are clearing cap space for something bigger.
The trade of Cassel on the other hand is no shock. The Pats sold high. To some, Cassel is a proven commodity. It seems at least as likely he was the product of a great system. He had a great receiving corps and offensive line and a coaching staff that scaled back the playbook, putting him in a position to succeed. He was fairly inaccurate on intermediate and deep throws. Even though many remember the Thursday night game against the Jets as his coming out party, he left points on the field in an overtime loss because of open targets he missed downfield. He took over a supporting cast coming off an NFL record season in points scored and put up 11 less per game than Tom Brady did.
Some might speculate this means the Pats are fully confident in Brady's return to full health before 2009. They might be, but they still might have made this trade even if they are not. Cassel's value is high right now. Their philosophy might be that they developed a Hall of Famer in Brady and then turned a guy who had not started a game since high school into a hot commodity. Considering what they have in place, they should feel confident in their ability to develop a third guy should the need arise. The Pats just drafted a quarterback, Kevin O'Connell, presumably to take over for Cassel in the near future.
What this does likely mean is either Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez will be there at pick 17. There is a chance both could be there. If the Jets like either guy, this is good news. The Chiefs were one of the few teams that seemed like a logical choice to take a quarterback. Aside from Detroit, which is considering going offensive line anyway, there are few threats.