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Sports

December 29, 2008

The other franchise QB

With Brady's status uncertain, Pats have to keep Cassel

What is franchising

The talk is New England may have to "franchise" Matt Cassel.

That means pay him the average of the five highest paid NFL quarterbacks.

So what happens now?

Today, New England football fans will lament the one thing Matt Cassel didn't do in the last four months, that is drive his team to the National Football League playoffs.

We're spoiled here. This team had made the postseason five straight years, going 11-4 with three trips to the Super Bowl. Even the brief elation from yesterday's inspiring 13-0 blanking of host Buffalo couldn't ease the pain.

Instead of joy and anticipation, January will be a time for angst.

Do the Patriots open up the bank vault for Cassel, who showed signs of being the next best thing?

Or do they let him walk to some deep-pocketed suitor, say the New York Jets?

Clearly, the Pats can afford both Tom Brady and Cassel, at least for one year.

Perhaps no other team could pull it off.

The prudent Patriots can. There are no giant, amortized signing bonuses lingering at Patriot Place.

All the upfront cash to Richard Seymour, the smart front-loaded contracts to Adalius Thomas and Ty Warren, this is where the dividends are collected.

New England, according to reports, is one of a handful of NFL franchises to close the books on 2008 at millions under the salary cap, yes even with all the injuries and desperate moves that followed.

Because of New England's frugality, the "franchise tag" is an ally, not a fear.

Elsewhere, players accept the tag with glee, knowing they'll be compensated like one of the top players at their position.

Here, the players use it as a bargaining tool, accepting one-year deals from the team, as Asante Samuel did in 2007, just so he could escape it in 2008.

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