According to several reports, the New England Patriots are going to make quarterback Matt Cassel their franchise player for the 2009 season. Cassel will be set to make the average of the top five salaries at the position, which will net him around $10 million, more than what Tom Brady will earn.
Cassel finished the final year of his rookie contract the way that players dream to perform in a contract year, not only getting the chance to fill in for Brady, but also putting up impressive numbers and leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. Although missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, Cassel was instrumental for a team that lost 14 players to the injured reserve list, including Brady and starting running back Lawrence Maroney.
Cassel's achievements cannot be overlooked for a team whose Super Bowl expectations almost evaporated when Bernard Pollard fell on Brady's knee, forcing him out for the season. It took a few games before Cassel truly hit his form, but by mid-season, he was turning in performances that even Brady had not accomplished.
In week 11, Cassel not only scorched the Jets defense for 400 yards passing, but drove the Patriots down the field with no timeouts to tie the game on a remarkable touchdown pass to Randy Moss. In the following week, Cassel torched the eventual AFC East champion Miami Dolphins for 415 yards. Brady has only recorded one 400+ yard passing game in his entire career.
Although there are whispers of Brady being far behind his rehabilitation schedule; far enough to question his status for the 2009 season. If Brady's knee clears up and he is ready for the season opener, Cassel will be traded to one of a number of teams in need of a quarterback.
Cassel's success, however, should be questioned by other clubs before they make plans to acquire him through a trade. Cassel plays with two Pro Bowl receivers and behind an equally talented offensive line, not to mention Bill Belichick and one of the most sought after assistant coaches in Josh McDaniels. He is younger than Brady, and while some extremists in New England have pondered whether to keep Cassel and trade Brady, it is overwhelming likely that Cassel will be moved if Brady is a go come September.