Talking Cassel, Lions
According to multiple reports, the Minnesota Vikings are close to acquiring Sage Rosenfels from the Houston Texas for a fourth-round draft pick. The deal can't become official until Friday, but its ramifications seem clear: The Vikings are content to go into next season with Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson battling it out at quarterback. More importantly, by trading that high of a pick, the Vikings won't be a factor in any Matt Cassel sweepstakes.
The Patriots franchised Cassel earlier this offseason as insurance for Tom Brady's injured knee. They could keep him at the steep price tag of $14.6 million next year or trade him for draft picks (this year or next) once they're confident Brady has healed.
Where do the Lions come in? They have a well-documented need at quarterback, plenty of draft picks to maneuver with, the cap space to take on Cassel's contract (which no doubt would be reworked as a long-term deal if he's traded) and a general manager in Martin Mayhew who's already shown a willingness to trade (Roy Williams last October).
I don't have any indications the Lions and Patriots have talked or that New England is even willing to deal Cassel at this point, but surely there will come a point when that bridge is crossed.
The Lions would be foolish to give up the No. 1 overall pick for Cassel, who'll be 27 once the season starts and has started one season of football this decade (albeit a fine season last year). The market doesn't bear it. But what about No. 20? Or better yet, what about 33?
New England, presumably, would start any discussions at a first-round pick and then some in terms of compensation. The market seems to bear that out. Rosenfels fetched a fourth, and two years ago Matt Schaub went for two seconds and a swap of first-round picks (Atlanta, which traded Schaub, moved up two spots in the deal).
But when the two sides start playing chicken, where does it end? The Lions surely would want Cassel in for their first of two mini-camps the weekend before the draft, and the list of potential landing spots will shrink by then. Minnesota's already out of the running. If the Jets sign Byron Leftwich in free agency and Washington adds Albert Haynesworth and a big contract, they probably will be, too.
That leave the Chiefs, where former Patriots personnel man Scott Pioli is now general manager, the Buccaneers, and maybe the Rams or Panthers or Bears. None of those teams has as much ammunition (and maybe incentive) to move up as the Lions. If you're considering Matt Stafford at No. 1 or Mark Sanchez at No. 20, then don't you have to consider Cassel for the 20th pick, too? Pair him with an offensive tackle or a linebacker at the top of the draft and this is a dramatically different team.
What if it also costs you a second-rounder next year? Is that too steep a price? On the other hand, what if all it takes is something like the Schaub trade? The Lions give up seconds this year and next and the teams exchange first-rounders (New England moves up to 20 and the Lions slide down to 23).
How bad and at what price would you want Cassel?