55 Percent of Matt Cassel's Passing Yards Came After the Catch; Yes, That Led the NFL

The Patriots haven't yet confirmed the report that they'll franchise Matt Cassel but that doesn't mean it won't happen, particularly if Tom Brady's recovery is truly behind schedule.

And while the organization has a history of treating personnel information -- no matter how mundane -- like it's a matter of national security, CBS analyst and sweater vest aficionado Phil Simms is absolutely certain New England will slap Cassel with the franchise tag. He heard it from his favorite source: Phil Simms.

He does admit, however, that the former USC backup to the backup has benefited from playing in the Pats' offense, although that doesn't mean he's not a legitimate starting quarterback.

He opened up a lot of people's eyes across the league, and I know he has an offense and they did a good job and all that, but I think you always separate the quarterback from the team. Matt Cassel is big, strong, athletic, knows when to run with the football now, and oh, he can really throw it. Can you name anybody coming out in the draft that fills that bill?

That's a solid point, and one the Patriots will undoubtedly raise if they try to trade Cassel this offseason. The Lions, Vikings, Bucs and Jets are four teams, off the top of my head, who could be looking for a long-term franchise quarterback. And, save, maybe Detroit -- who are No. 1 at something ... the 2009 first-overall draft pick -- one could make an argument for sending a first-rounder New England's way for Cassel.

Now, assuming Brady won't be ready to start the '09 season, I don't think a trade will happen, but for the sake of argument, let's say it does. Here's something to consider (via the Boston Globe's Mike Reiss):

[Cassel] deserves whatever comes his way, but at the same time he also benefited from having some terrific yards-after-catch players in Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk and Randy Moss around him. Approximately 55 percent of the team's passing yards came after the catch, which was a league high.

So if a team is going to trade for Cassel, I think it must ask itself some important questions: Do we have a similar system and talent? And is Cassel indeed a proven option without those parts around him (e.g. Tom Brady in 2006)?

To answer the last two questions: no and no. None of the teams listed above have anywhere near the offensive firepower of the Patriots, but that doesn't mean Cassel can't be successful in, say, Tampa or New York. Just that it's probably important to temper the expectations. Even though he might occasionally look like Brady in the pocket, he most certainly is not.

Again, that's not a knock; just stating what should be obvious: there's a huge difference between arguably the best quarterback in the league this decade and a guy who had an above-average season throwing to Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

I suspect some team desperate for quarterback help will make the Patriots an attractive offer. I'm just not sure New England will be in a position to make a deal until they know more about Brady's knee.

55 Percent of Matt Cassel's Passing Yards Came After the Catch; Yes, That Led the NFL originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Wed, 07 Jan 2009 19:15:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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