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Cassel Signs Long-Term with KC - Chiefs Still Suck

 7-17-09

It’s a good thing that Matt Cassel signed a long-term deal in Kansas City, because it’s going to take a few years before this team is making the impact that GM Scott Pioli would like. The former New England Patriots stand-in has signed a whopping $63 million contract over six-years, with $28 million in guarantees, and over $40 million going to the quarterback in the first three-years. That’s a ton of cheese to throw at a guy who had one good season with the best coach in the game at his side.

Cassel threw for 3,693 yards last season, amassing 21 touchdowns and throwing just 11 picks as the Patriots narrowly missed the playoffs. With a quarterback rating of 89.4, Cassel was amongst the leagues best quarterbacks, and became one of the most sought after commodities when NFL free-agency began in the Spring. The main reason being that the first-year starter averaged 223.1 passing yards per game with the Patriots, ranking the Pats as the twelfth best passing offence in the game.

Cassel has a long way to go to get the Kansas City Chiefs in to the top-half of that stat bracket, especially given that the Chiefs were the 20th ranked passing game with just 195.6 passing yards per game. The Chiefs averaged 25.9 points per game as well.

My main issue with Cassel is that he was a product of the vaunted New England Patriots, whose system has benefited guys like Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. Bill Belichik had perhaps his best, and most challenging test as head coach last season when Brady went down to injury thanks to Bernard Pollards, now Cassel’s teammate. Can Cassel recreate the magic without Uncle Bill and Randy Moss? I highly doubt it. At times it’s easy to remember how incredible his season was last year, but it’s not too hard to forget that Cassel has been a career backup throughout college and the pros. The last time he started a game before last season was in high-school.

Larry Johnson is a crucial piece of the puzzle. At $5.65 million against the cap next season, Johnson must have a bounce back year for the Chiefs to show any semblance of hope in the NFL betting sphere. The Chiefs stand as +3300 underdogs to win the AFC overall, and are a laughable +800 to make any noise in the joke that is becoming the AFC West. Securing Cassel is the first part of the backfield, but finding an heir apparent to Johnson (no offense, Kolby Smith) is priority one.

At a time the Chiefs were stacked at running back, boasting both Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes. But relying on their running game too often wore down both talented backs, and killed their longevity as competitors in the Super Bowl. Behind the likes of a concussion-prone Trent Green, Tyler Thigpen and Damon Huard, the Chiefs fell deeper and deeper in to obscurity as their betting faithful struggled to stay afloat. The Chiefs were an abysmal 2-14 SU last season, finishing with a decent 8-8 ATS record.

Now with Cassel, the Chiefs have hopes of grooming another tailback for the future. They just have to find him first. Larry Johnson has a lot of miles on his legs, but he obviously still has some punch. With Cassel supposedly taking the focus off the once one-dimensional running attack of KC, LJ can now hope to rebuild a career that was so promising in 2005. Time is running out for Johnson. It’s just beginning for Cassel.

Signing Cassel long-term goes a long way in pointing the Chiefs down the right path. But Cassel’s only weapon is Dwayne Bowe, who caught 86 receptions for 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns. His best weapon and a Chiefs mainstay for so many years, Tony Gonzalez, is now the gleeful receiving choice of Matt Ryan in Atlanta. After Bowe, there is more than a 50-catch drop-off to the third ranked Chiefs receiver. The Chiefs have hopes that reliable Bobby Engram can be – uh – reliable, but Engram’s always shined as a number-three guy.

The Chiefs made it clear they were rebuilding the defense first, adding Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Jackson will fill in next to Glenn Dorsey, and both players will comprise an interior defense composed of all LSU Tigers.

So the point is simple. Don’t get too excited about Cassel and the Chiefs this season. It will take some time before the long term questions are answered at receiver, running-back and offensive line for the Chiefs. For now, they only thing I want to know is simply this: of the $28 million guaranteed to Cassel, how much of it is he spending on a gift for strong-safety Bernard Pollard?

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