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The Patriots Got Hosed...or Did They?

By Patriots Blog Writer Doug Cutler Jr.

At first glance, most everyone in Patriots Nation will question the terms of the deal that sent Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for the 34th overall pick in this year’s draft. Some might even go so far as to say the Patriots got hosed.

Take a second look.

The art of the trade in professional sports generally can be boiled down to one question: Are you bargaining from a position of strength…or weakness? Your success in trading is directly determined by how you answer that question.

Now, let’s apply that truism to what happened over the weekend with Cassel, Vrabel, and the 34th pick. Fact number one, New England was committed to paying Cassel $14+ million dollars in 2009. Fact number two, not counting any quarterbacks other than Tom Brady and Cassel, the Patriots had $30 million dedicated to that position. Throw in third stringer Kevin O’Connell and that’s 25% of available payroll for just one position. Every team in the league knew this and it most certainly put the Patriots in a position of weakness when bargaining.

Add in the fact that if the Patriots didn’t franchise Cassel last month he would have left New England via free agency anyway and brought absolutely nothing in return. Nada.

The long and the short of it is this: The Patriots were between a rock and a hard place. Don’t franchise Cassel and he walks for free, do franchise him and everybody knows you absolutely must trade him because of his $14 million dollar salary. That is the definition of bargaining from the short chair.

After considering all this, that second look reveals a shrewd move by Bill Belichick. He essentially traded 33 year old Mike Vrabel for the 34th overall pick this April and he guaranteed that both Vrabel and Cassel went to a non-divisional opponent.

That, my friends, is pure genius.


  1. Very well done again I must say! You would think that the Pats did get hosed if you didn't analyze the trade in whole. Something for something with both teams winning is just not what most Pats fans expect, but it couldn't have worked out any better. Well I bet another good thing is that the Pats did this quick enough so they can now land a decent free agent.

  2. Good article, Doug.

    The fact is: KC should be much improved in getting Cassell, but now the Pats have 4 picks in the top 2 rounds.

    All eyes will be on them draft day.


  3. What are your opinions on this trade in light of the reports that the Patriots could have potentially gotten a first rounder in a multi-team deal for Cassel? I do understand that it was a three team deal that was still in the works and therefore there were no guarantees, but I don't understand why they did not wait a little while longer to see if that trade can be finalized so that they can get a first round pick.

    I do understand that they are close to the cap, especially after signing Fred Taylor, and trading Cassel and his 14 million dollar cap figure was the easiest way to get under the cap, but they have not really completed any signings that demonstrate that the team needed cap room immediately.

    I also understand that a first round pick costs more than a second round pick, but that assumes that the Patriots would have stayed in that pick. The team has shown that it is not afraid to trade picks and move back in the draft and they could have easily done that with the first round pick they would have received. I understand the difficulty of getting equal value for a first round pick sometimes based upon the assigned values in the trade chart, but I am sure that the team would have been able to find some deal to move back and pick up extra picks. Even if they got stuck with the pick, their last first round pick in that general range ended up working out pretty well.

    Plus, even if the three team deal did not materialize, I don't think that the offer from the Chiefs would have gone anywhere. The Chiefs need a quarterback and Cassel is really the only quarterback that has the potential to be a franchise guy for years to come that is available in this market. The only real difference maker that is available at quarterback is Kurt Warner, and I don't think that the Chiefs were even considering him. Even if they were, I think that the chances of him actually signing in Kansas City would have been virtually non-existent. In the trade market, the only real option is Jay Cutler, but I don't think that a deal between the Chiefs and the Broncos could have been worked out. In the potential New England deal, the Broncos would have been receiving a quarterback that would have started for them. The Chiefs could not include any such player in the deal, unless the Broncos value Thigpen the same as Cassel. This basically means that the trade likely would have had to involve Kansas City's first round pick. I don't see the Chiefs being willing to part with that high of a pick for just one player when they have so many needs.

    Overall, in this environment, I think that the Patriots made a fairly good deal. However, they seemed to almost panic and take the first workable deal that came along instead of waiting to see what happened with the potential three team deal. Even if that deal had fallen apart, I don't think that the Chief's willingness to deal for Cassel would have just disappeared. I think that they would have still been able to complete that same deal so the only thing that the Patriots would have really lost would have been some time. However, since they have not been really active in the free agent market, it appears unlikely to an outsider that this lost time would have really prevented them from adding players.

  4. Since most of the important deals for the top tier free agents occur very soon in the free agency period, the Patriots absolutely had to complete this trade ASAP or they would have had no available payroll under the salary cap. As it is, they missed out on some key free agents already.

    Free agency is all about the money. No available free agents. Promises and handshakes don't count. No player is going to negotiate with a team that "has plans" to make the space available. Either the team has the room or the free agent moves on to the next team.

    Also, I think if the price was anything more than the 34th pick, Kansas City walks and simply goes with Tyler Thigpen.

    The Denver aspect of all this is intriguing, but basically it is "a day late and a dollar short."

    - Doug

  5. One thing you forgot to mention in this is that the 34th pick is basically a first round quality pick at a 2nd round price. Odds are Belichick looked at the depth of the positions he wanted saw an opportunity to get a player he wants (DE/OLB Connor Barwin from Cinci IMO) with out the price tag that the 12th overall pick would have brought.