Andrew Perna. 28th February, 2009 - 2:29 pm
General manager Scott Pioli, who joined the Chiefs in January after eight years with the Patriots, is trying his hardest to make his new team the Midwest version of his old one.
A day after acquiring veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel from New England, Pioli swung for the fences and landed franchise quarterback Matt Cassel on Saturday.
The deal immediately makes Kansas City a substantially better offensive team, with Cassel representing a sizable improvement over Tyler Thigpen and Brodie Croyle.
The Chiefs finished in the bottom third of the league in nearly every offensive category last season, with Thigpen throwing close to eighty percent of their passes. The second-year man from Coastal Carolina wasn?t awful, going 230-for-420 with 2,608 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He did, however, complete just 54.8 percent of his passes, while venturing out of the pocket very often.
Thigpen compiled 386 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 62 attempts. Cassel used his legs even more than Thigpen did in 2008, scrambling 73 times for 270 yards and two scores.
While both are moderately mobile, Cassel is a far superior passer.
Taking over for Tom Brady midway through New England?s Week 1 battle with the Chiefs (irony?), Cassel took the football and ran with it. The Patriots didn?t make the playoffs, but there is no denying that they were much better than many thought they would be without Brady, an NFL MVP.
Cassel went 327-for-516 with 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While he did have a superior supporting cast around him, the former USC backup didn?t force passes or make many mistakes. He threw more than one interception in just three games, a pretty impressive feat for a guy who hadn?t started a game since around the time of his senior prom.
He also achieved a feat that Brady never has, having tossed back-to-back 400-yard games in Weeks 11 and 12. Those efforts came against New York and Miami, both hated rivals in the AFC East.
Critics of this deal will point to the fact that Kansas City lacks both the winning tradition and veteran, balanced roster of New England, but the pieces are definitely in place for Cassel to bring success along with his right arm to the Chiefs.
Kansas City actually allowed fewer sacks last season than New England, and the Chiefs already have above-average targets in receiver Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Gonzalez. There has been speculation, lasting at least a year now, that Gonzalez will force a trade, but Pioli has shown the commitment to success that the future Hall of Famer has long desired.
Let?s also not forget that new head coach Todd Haley has worked with Kurt Warner, and helped form one of the league?s most potent passing attacks in Arizona. Pioli, Haley, and Cassel will be looking to achieve similar success in Kansas City.
Grade for Chiefs: A-
ESPN is reporting that Cassel was actually part of the aforementioned trade that sent Vrabel to the Chiefs, a move that will allow New England to save some serious dough.
The exact details aren?t yet known, but you have to expect that the Patriots will land multiple draft picks in the swap.
Kansas City had the customary seven picks prior to this deal, or deals, and I have to believe that at least a second-rounder (and a lower round pick) is involved. If that?s true, it would give the aging Patriots an abundance of picks in April?s NFL Draft.
For New England, who was labeled as ?old? last season, additional picks are exactly what the doctor ordered.
Grade for Patriots: A
This deal also appears to reveal just how confident Bill Belichick and Co. are about the health of Brady, who got hitched and became his team?s unquestioned quarterback in a matter of days.
Grade for Brady: A
Even if Brady suffers an injury setback, or unexpectedly deals with bad luck again in 2009, fans shouldn?t second guess this move one bit. The Chiefs may be in the AFC, but there aren?t a rival and as good as Cassel looked in 2008, he has only started fifteen games in the NFL. He?s not Derek Anderson, but I?ve said this all along as well?he?s not Tom Brady either.
With that said, Cassel has gone from taking a backseat once again, to a starting role. He may not be in the playoff hunt this coming season, but the Chiefs are on the rise and he will deposit close to $15 million in his bank account in 2009.
Grade for Cassel: B+
Andrew Perna is Deputy Editor of RealGM.com and co-host of RealGM?s Radio Show. Please feel free to contact him with comments or questions via e-mail: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com