When Tom Brady went down last season, the Patriots were left for dead. However, backup Matt Cassel emerged by throwing 21 touchdowns and led New England to a 11-5 record.
Cassel was particularly impressive down the stretch, throwing for 14 of his scores and posting three 300-yard performances (two over 400 yards) over the team's final seven games.
The Patriots thought enough of Cassel to place the franchise tag on him. However, when it became clear that Brady was going to be ready for the start of the 2009 campaign the team dealt him to Kansas City along with veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel for the Chiefs' second-round draft pick.
He recently inked a six-year, $63 million deal that has $28 million in guaranteed money and will pay him $40.5 million over the next three seasons.
While I am not totally dismissing that Cassel has potential, I am going to recommend staying clear of him if possible. Here are some reasons why:
NEW COACH - Todd Haley, the Chiefs' new head coach, is the former Cardinals offensive coordinator and has worked in the Cowboys' organization too. He is expected to use a ton of shotgun formations like Cassel excelled in last season, but the overall system is different and will take time to adjust to. Kansas City retained Chan Gailey, who is more of a smashmouth football type of guy, so some sort of hybird system is possible. Either way I am thinking some adjustment time should be expected.
KC FAR FROM NEW ENGLAND - Aside from the coach, the entire persona of the Chiefs is different than that of the Patriots. In New England, everyone is just an interchangable part of a bigger puzzle. Meanwhile, in Kansas City coaches and personnel have continued to turnover over the past decade as the franchise hasn't won a playoff game in that span. Cassel will have to be the man here.
GONZO GONE - I still can't figure out what the Chiefs were thinking when they sent tight end Tony Gonazlez to Atlanta. He was by far the team's best weapon in the passing game and coming off a monster season. His departure takes some of the luster off of Cassel finding a home and locking down a starting job.
FEW WEAPONS - Outside of Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs have few options for Cassel to throw to. Mark Bradley has never amounted to much and newcomer Bobby Engram is merely a role player at best. Larry Johnson (who I am not crazy about either) is a big question mark at running back too.
BRUTAL SCHEDULE - While they may get the Broncos twice, the rest of the Chiefs' slate is less than appealing. They have two match-ups with the Ravens and Steelers and play the entire NFC East.
FINAL TAKE - Cassel may have a starting NFL job, but he should still be looked at more as a high-end fantasy backup until he proves that it was him and not the system that led to 2008's success. I would draft him accordingly in the mid-rounds of your draft. Chances are though, based off last year's effort more than one owner in your league will overpay to get him.