Yes, Cassel had a fantastic season filling in for Brady. His numbers were strikingly similar to Brady’s 2003 season. He was getting progressively better as the season drew on, and for a while many were confident that they could make a decent run in the playoffs.
However, the season ended on a few backward laterals by the Jets, and the Patriots front office was faced with the dilemma of 2 starting quarterbacks. Combined they would count around $30 million against the cap. It doesn’t take an accounting major to figure out that the numbers don’t really add up. One of them clearly needs to be dealt.
Sending Cassel off tells me that the organization is very confident in Tom Bray’s knee. Although he may not be around for camp, it seems almost certain that he will be out there on opening day. Trading Cassel and Vrabel away clears nearly $20 million in cap room.
That is cap room that can be used to add depth at DB (a.k.a Leigh Bodden), OLB/DE (a.k.a. Julius Peppers), and whatever other needs the team decides are important (a.k.a WR). Yes, Cassel had to be traded, but why Kansas City?
Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, and Kansas City all had obvious needs at quarterback. Minnesota brought in Rosenfels, Detroit traded Kitna and essentially put their faith in Culpepper (or Stafford), and San Fran seems like they believe Hill is their quarterback of the future. That leaves just Kansas City.
In any market, when the buyer pool is particularly small, that pool holds the power in negotiations. Pioli knows that they have to get rid of Cassel, and he was in a position to lowball the Patriots. At the end of the day New England has a few areas of need, plenty of depth at those positions in the draft, and four day one picks. I thoroughly believe that at the end of this season (or the next few) this trade will go down as a steal for the Patriots similar to the way we look at the deal for Randy Moss.