The Patriots didn’t waste any time regarding their decision whether or not to franchise quarterback Matt Cassel. On the first day the option become available, New England placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cassel, who will make $14.65 million once he signs the tender offer.
In the event a trade market does not develop, the Patriots would be tying up $29.2 million of their approximately $123 million salary cap on two players. That runs counter to the philosophy that has helped the Patriots thrive this decade, spreading the wealth to more players, and could handcuff other moves, such as signing nose tackle Vince Wilfork to an extension.
The Patriots chose the less restrictive of the two franchise tags.
The exclusive franchise tag would have prohibited other teams from negotiating with Cassel. A non-exclusive franchise player is free to negotiate with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet, the original team has a right to match.
If the original team does not match, it receives two first-round draft picks. Because of that steep price, franchise-tagged players are seldom signed to offer sheets.
This was a move that had to be done. Now the Patriots can see what the market (if any) is for Cassel and then they can plan their next step. If they trade Cassel, they’ll likely receive multiple draft picks in exchange and they won’t have to soak that much money into their quarterback position next year. If they can’t move him, then maybe they’ll contemplate trading Brady and working on a long-term deal for Cassel, who is six years younger and not coming off major knee surgery. The Pats could also hang onto Cassel in the event Brady has a set back in his recovery this offseason and use him as an expensive security blanket next season.
Regardless of what move they ultimately make, the first step was franchising Cassel and not letting him walk without getting anything in return.
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