The Kansas City have already made it plain and clear that they are going to bring in competition for Matt Cassel this offseason. In and of itself, it was a rare pronouncement of the team's plan moving forward, and while it was still vague, it offered fans wanting the same a bit of support in knowing that the quarterback position would be analyzed and addressed. Cassel was going to remain a part of the equation in 2012. The only question was: how much?
In recent weeks, however, Cassel has been relegated completely to the sidelines by the word that the Chiefs could be among the final suitors for Peyton Manning's services. It's obvious when an unexpected treasure hits the open market, you have to change your plans. But the idea that Manning would come in and be competition for Cassel is something that no one will buy, which leads to the question of what to do with Cassel.
With Ricky Stanzi already on the roster, the Chiefs depth chart at the position could be set if Cassel becomes the back-up. Tim Kavanagh of ESPN says that Cassel could be deemed expendable for other teams looking for a starter:
So will Cassel simply be cut? He has three years left on the six-year, $63 million pact signed prior to the 2009 season, but two of the big bonuses ($10 million in year one and $7.5 million in year three) have already been paid. He'll turn 30 on May 17, and it's unclear if he'd be willing to sit behind Peyton for the two seasons (or more) if Manning signs.
As for connections to other teams, Cassel's former coach -- Todd Haley -- is now employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who don't need a QB. Ditto for Josh McDaniels -- with whom he worked in his Patriot days -- who is back coaching Tom Brady. But there will be other teams on the lookout for QB upgrades this offseason -- especially if they whiff on Manning and Matt Flynn -- and Cassel would be a fine option if this scenario plays out.
But Cassel is not expendable for the Chiefs in any way. Think about what's in play here:
1. Cassel's contract - As Kavanagh notes, the biggest bonuses have already been paid. Cassel will take up just over $5.4 million in cap room of the Chiefs in 2012. That's it. If that sounds like quite a bit to you, the word on Chad Henne (i.e. Matt Cassel lite) is that he will command a contract in the $4 to 5 million range. In short, Henne and Cassel will cost around the same to have on your roster.
2. Peyton Manning's health - As much as everyone wants to believe that the great icon can make a full recovery and generate positive news for the league next season, he's also 35 with a degenerative nerve condition in his neck of all places. One wrong throw or one hard hit could change that. Manning is a competitor with the best work ethic in the NFL and top medical care available for him. But there's no denying he's damanged goods.
3. The Chiefs' back-up is likely to play - While every team is going to want to be ready in case of emergency, the Chiefs have better reason to load the depth chart at quarterback than most if they sign Manning. And that's the case for any team that snags the former Colts quarterback. The risk is just too great.
4. Cassel as a trade asset - The three-year starter for the Chiefs would certainly net some sort of draft assets perhaps, but a need would also be created for a back-up quarterback. Move a player to create a hole? Only if the bounty offered was good enough. Even if Cassel could command a decent draft pick, the team still has a hole at the most important position on the field. The Chiefs could sign Henne, but is that worth an additional pick to move from Cassel to Henne?
The situation is not as easy as it might sound. Cassel's cap amount for 2012 is a great number for the Chiefs. If he was the bonafide starter, it would enable the Chiefs to surround him with the best talent and make a run deep in the playoffs. Instead it creates a bit of a conundrum. Yet given the price of quarterbacks on the open market, Cassel is the best buy and a much safer back-up to have on hand than others available. It's likely that keeping Cassel gives the Chiefs the best scenario if they sign Manning.