Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

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.


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.


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.


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.

16 Responses to “Monday Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 1, 2009  - Rip 'em a new one says:

    This entire Cassel contract business has mystery and possible trouble written all over it. On the one hand, the Chiefs almost HAVE to give the guy the starting QB job in 2009 regardless.

    $14Mil QBs don’t sit on the bench, afterall, so what level of genuine competition will there be? Umm, $14 Million to #7 and everyone else is now playing for the backup positions.

    OK, so the guy stumbles out of the gate and stinks up the place. At what point do you bench a one year guy making $14Mil? And if you are forced to bench him, how much industrial strength cleaner will be needed to remove that big egg off Pioli’s face?

    What does this Cassel deal do for the morale of the rest of the team if he’s only mediocre or worse? I think it’s crazy not to take a leap of additional faith and get Cassel signed for a longterm deal NOW instead of playing out many ‘what-if’ scenarios down the road.

  • June 1, 2009  - Hemi7382 says:

    The next few years for this new regime is not screwing itself by hurrying into a deal for Cassel. If Cassel did indead have a one year wonder season, then the Chiefs still have another quality option at quarterback: Tyler Thigpen.

    Consider this one of many worse case scenareos: Cassel’s first few games are less than steller. He throws an interception to touchdown ratio of 4 to 1 per game over the first few games of the season. Haley thinks he’s seen enough, and in comes Tyler Thigpen. We all know how he performed with what he had last year, and it wasn’t nearly the same kind of arsenal that Cassel had. Don’t forget that Thigpen is still on the roster, and many folks out there believe he can be a legitamate starter in this league.

    Regardless, I think that Cassel will sign a long term deal by the time the Chiefs play the Ravens opening day. I don’t believe it will have anything to do with improving Cassel’s morale, but it may have something to do with the Chiefs seeing enough of what he can do in Training Camp and in the Pre-Season to warrant him getting a new deal.

    I’m not worried. We haven’t even seen a pre-season game yet, and the calender is just now reading June. There’s a lot of off-season left, and not a snap has been played. Besides, here’s a question for some of you who think that Cassel has the starting job by default since he makes so much money anyway: Who was making more money when the Cardinals benched Leinart in favor of Warner last year before the season started?

  • June 1, 2009  - anonymous says:

    This is what I’ve suspected the Chiefs were doing. I personaly think it’s a smart play.

    Rip, how much egg could possible be on Pioli’s face? He only gave a second round pick for him and Vrable. If any thing, by holding off on a long term deal Pioli is putting anti-egg on his face. I don’t see where the big gambel is, for the Chiefs anyway. It’s not like a team can steal him away, if they franchise him it would cost a team 2 first round picks, or if the Chiefs go the RFA route and a team makes him an offer the Chiefs have a right to match it, if not then the Chiefs still get a first and a third round pick.

    Pioli is playing this smart, in my estimation.

  • June 1, 2009  - boomer says:

    Where are the Chiefs going to find good enough players to come up with the 15 million they need to pay to reach the Salary Cap FLOOR? Just going by Peter King’s assessment of a couple of weeks ago. I’d always thought the June 1 date would be pretty important, but now…not so! It will be interesting to see how this plays out!

  • June 1, 2009  - dusty says:

    Next year’s situation without a player contract concerns me. Sure hope the league and players union adhere to the advice about not screwing up a good thing. Greed is always part of the equation when you are talking money. Being too greedy, however, may severely trim the wings of the golden goose, much as it has with MLB. IF the parties involved follow the MLB format, then we had all better enjoy this next season, because the good times will be over. May wise heads prevail!

  • June 1, 2009  - anonymous says:

    I hear ya dusty! Looking more and more like no football in 2011.

    I said the other day, the owners are going to try and screw the hell outta the Players and their union.

  • June 1, 2009  - anonymous says:

    Oops, 2010*

  • June 1, 2009  - findthedr says:

    solid info about Page.

    thanks, Mr. Gretz.

  • June 1, 2009  - Ratso says:

    Pioli has been around Cassel his entire career so I think he knows what he’s getting. Also, if anything the Chiefs have proven to be very shrewd regarding player salaries so I’ll keep the faith until something goes wrong … not just speculation.

  • June 1, 2009  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Cassel really didn’t throw for all that yardage last year, whereas Thigpen threw for more of his yards. The patriots had the leading WR’s in YAC last year. That helped balloon Cassels yardage numbers. He did have alot more sacks though with a better O-line.

    We will see this year how good Cassel is, I for one think that Thigpen should have gotten his chance to start though, and they need to hold off till near the end of the season to get a long term deal done, if he ends up being pretty good, if not you deal him away to denver..

  • June 1, 2009  - SG says:

    “…if not you deal him away to denver.”

    The old buy low, sell lower strategy?

  • June 1, 2009  - alex k says:

    you do realize a higher yac often is due to the QB putting the ball in a place to catch and run, which thigpen rarely did…

  • June 1, 2009  - True Red & Gold says:

    The risk that Pioli is taking here is the money. That is a lot of money spent if Cassel does not become a franchise QB.
    It is true Cassel will go into training camp as the starter, there really is no doubt about that. Haley needs to win and win soon. If Cassel is not playing good enough to get the W than Haley will make a change, “if” he feels that gives him a better chance to win.
    I don’t believe it is a stretch to predict that Cassel will probably struggle along with the rest of the team this year. We will get to see just how much fight the guy has. If he can perform as good as Thigpen did last year he will keep the starting job for this year.

  • June 1, 2009  - ED says:

    The Cassell not signing a long term deal is a nothing to do about nothing topic. Fact is Cassell had one good year the Chiefs shouldn’t be in a rush to crown him the franchise make the kid earn his money. As for Cassell if he blows and has a bad yr he still going to make more money this season then he has made his whole NFL career. Either way I see Cassell having a solid season and a contract getting done around Week 5 to Week 8 and us end this talk about his contract situation.

    Besides I do think he can be a good quarterback in this league. He doesn’t have the Hollywood mentality like most recent USC quarterbacks Matt Leninart and Mark Sanchez seem to have which is the reason Leninart has struggled and the reason Sanchez will struggle in NY. The kid is humble and has a workman’s mentality and it will continue to payoff for the kid in the league.

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