Matt Cassel hasn’t even played a game for the Chiefs, yet there has already been lengthy discussion about the contract status of the man expected to be the team’s starting quarterback.
And there’s no question that Cassel and his contract status will continue to be a major story for the 2009 Chiefs season.
There’s always the chance a deal will get worked out to have Cassel tied up for a longer term than just one season. That could happen any day. But generally contracts get done when it’s important for one side or the other to have a deal.
Right now, there is absolutely no reason for either side to hurry to the negotiating table, or more appropriately to hurry away from the negotiating table.
When the Chiefs made the trade with New England for Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel, they inherited the contracts those players had with the Patriots. With Cassel, that was the Franchise Player tender of $14.65 million for the 2009 season.
Cassel should send flowers to Bill Belichick every pay day for the rest of his career thanks to that offer. Here’s a guy that started 15 games in the last eight years of college and pro football, and he’ll be one of the highest paid players in the NFL for the 2009 season at that number. Oh, by the way, that money is guaranteed. Last year, Cassel made $520,000, the league minimum for a player with his years of experience.¬†
It was easy for Belichick to slap the Franchise Player tag on Cassel because he knew that he would never have to pay the ticket. New England was going to (1.) trade Cassel, (2.) negotiate a longer term deal or (3.) remove the designation. When Cassel signed the Franchise Player tender, the Patriots options were down to 1 and 2, because his signature guaranteed the $14.65 million.
They choose (1.) and made the deal.
The best time for the Chiefs to work out a longer term deal with Cassel would have been in conjunction with the trade. Maybe a four-year deal for $25-30 million, with that guaranteed $14.65 million serving as a signing bonus. Given his status as a 15-game NFL starter, that would have worked out to about $6 to $7 million per year on the deal. When the Houston Texans acquired Matt Schaub in 2007, the deal was announced as a six-year contract for $48 million. In reality, it was a three-year deal for just under $20 million. Schaub had started just two games in Atlanta when the deal was made, thus the Texans protected themselves with the way the contract was structured.
That opportunity with Cassel passed and now we are two months from the first training camp practice and Cassel is still on the ’09 books for $14.65 million. There was the rumor on the day of the NFL Draft that a long-term deal had been worked out, but it proved only a rumor.
From the Chiefs perspective, there is no hurry to get a new deal done. They have plenty of available space under the salary cap for the season. In fact, they need Cassel and his big deal to have any chance to reach the minimum payroll they must have under collective bargaining agreement rules.
And while Scott Pioli obviously believes Cassel can be an effective starting quarterback in the NFL, he’s still an unproven commodity. It’s one thing to start 15 games and direct your team to a 10-5 record when you have a veteran team around you, receivers like Randy Moss and Wes Welker, a good defense and a proven head coach in Belichick. It’s another to be the trigger man for a team that has none of those advantages.
So there’s a bit of a gamble for the Chiefs. If Cassel plays well, his value goes up. If Cassel struggles with a new team and situation, his value doesn’t increase and may decrease.
From the perspective of Cassel and his agent David Dunn, there should be no hurry right now to get a longer term contract. The only bogey currently on Cassel’s radar screen for a new contract and future money is the possibility of injury. Another can appear once the season starts, if he should not play well. If Cassel plays well, then his position improves.
There’s an interesting twist to Cassel’s situation. For the 2009 season he was an unrestricted free agent. With the league entering an uncapped season in 2010, free agency for players gets pushed to six seasons. So in 2010, Cassel will only be a restricted free agent.
The Chiefs could again make him the franchise player, but that would be at 120 percent of his ’08 pay or $17.58 million. If they tendered him as a restricted free agent, it would cost $16.115 million, or 110 percent of his ’09 salary.
If you are Cassel and Dunn, the starting point for a longer-term deal is at least $30 million guaranteed, because they figure to see that much in 2009-10. For a player with his experience in the league, that number is outrageous, but it’s not a number that Cassel picked. It was picked for him.
There’s an element of risk for both sides in playing out this contract situation.
No matter what happens, Matt Cassel will be a very rich young man.
UNDERSTANDING THE SITUATION WITH JARRAD PAGE
One of the sad things about the staff cuts at the local fish wrap is that there are far fewer people around that building who have any idea how the NFL works.
In Saturday’s Kansas City Star was a story about Chiefs safety Jarrad Page signing his tender offer from the club. The headline and the story seem to indicate that Page “decided to stay in Kansas City.”
Page had no choice. As a restricted free agent, his ability to leave the Chiefs was, well … restricted. When the Chiefs gave him the tender offer – $1.545 million -¬†it protected their rights and meant they were due compensation (second-round draft choice) from any team that decided to offer Page a contract.
None did, as the deadline for making offers to restricted free agents was April 17.
Again, Page didn’t decide to stay in Kansas City when he signed the tender; he had no choice as to where he was going to play. He would not have been able to report to training camp without signing the tender. It was a mere formality.
Here’s one more point: under the free agency rules of the past 15 years, as a four-year veteran Page would become a free agent after the 2009 season. But because the NFL owners have opted out of the current agreement, next year there is no salary cap.
So next year, Page will again be a restricted free agent.
FIRST OF JUNE NO LONGER IMPORTANT DAY IN NFL
With the NFL currently heading towards an uncapped year in 2010, there will be no releasing of players after June 1 to help with the salary cap.
What happened in the past was June 1 was an accounting benchmark. If a player was released before that day, then anything left on his contract was accelerated into that season’s salary cap. If a player was released after June 1, then those accelerated monies would get pushed into the next season.
Since there’s no cap next season, any future money that must be accounted for under the cap comes this season.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on Jun 1, 1963 in Cincinnati was RB Chris Smith. He spent two seasons in the NFL with the Chiefs (1986-87), appearing in four games with three starts. He carried the ball 26 times for 114 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards.