The Weekend Wrap: On Albert, Cassel, and Cutler

March 02, 2009 |

The NFL’s free agency period began with a flourish. The Redskins gave big money to Albert Haynesworth. The Patriots literally gave away Matt Cassel away, and Jay Cutler wants a change of scenery. Let’s look at each of these situations.

Washington Gives Haynesworth His Hundred Mill: Yes, Albert Haynesworth played his way into this contract over the last two seasons, but still – $100M? Sure, only $41M is guaranteed, but still, that’s a lot of jack for a player who some still have questions about. For instance, some wonder how he will do now that he has his money. It’s not a bad question to ask. Haynesworth still has to prove he was the player he was last year as opposed to the player he was a few years ago (the non-productive one that stomped on Dallas’ Andre Gurode’s head).

There is also some question as to his ability to stay healthy. Haynesworth, only once in his career (his rookie season of 2002), stayed healthy for the entire season. Even last year, when he was dominant, he managed to miss two games with injury. For the money the Redskins spent on him, Haynesworth had better manage to stay healthy. He’s got a big target on him now. A one-hundred million dollar target to be exact.

Haynesworth certainly has the talent to play up to the contract, But it will be hard for an interior player to pull off. And, it’ll be even harder with the Washington media all over him. Remember, the Redskins have spent big money on big free agents before. The results haven’t always been so great. For every Bruce Smith there was Deion Sanders, Adam Archuleta, Antwaan Rabdle-El, and Brandon Lloyd. In other words, Daniel Snyder hasn’t always gotten the most out of his free agent investments.

In this economy, he had better hope Haynesworth is an investment that gives him a big return.

Patriots Give Cassel Away: Who says teams don’t do each other favors in this league? The New England Patriots did former front office guy Scott Pioli a huge favor on Saturday, when they trade quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second round draft pick (#34 overall).

Simply put it’s a move that smells. The Patriots usually don’t make bad deals, but this one is bad. Cassel was their franchise player. He has a lot of upside, as we all saw last season, when he stepped in for the injured Tom Brady and played better than anyone ever expected him to. In fact, word around the league was the Patriots turned down better deals to make this trade.

As far as Vrabel is concerned – sure he isn’t what he used to be, but he’s a veteran with three Super Bowl rings who will wind up being the leader of a young defense. He’s more of a glue guy than star player at this point.

Surely, when you add, Cassel and Vrabel together, you come up with more than just a second round pick, right? So, what happened?

Well, what happened was that the Patriots decided to help Pioli out. Maybe it was his reward for helping build the three Super Bowl winners, I don’t know. What I know is that Piloi got a big break from his old team.

I also know that what the Patriots did was the exception to the rule. It is not the norm in the NFL. Hell, it’s not even the norm for the Patriots. This organization has a history of trying to stick it to employees that leave. They tried to do everything in their power to stop Bill Parcells from taking the Jets coaching job in 1997. They didn’t exactly help Eric Mangini out when he left to become the Jets head coach after the 2005 season.

But I guess Pioli was a different story. And, it’s not a story that you will see repeated many times in a cut throat league like the NFL is.

Cutler Wants Out of Denver: It’s important to remember that this is only speculation, but it’s explosive stuff. And, if it’s true, then a busy off-season in Denver is about to get a whole lot busier.

It goes all the way back to the firing of Mike Shannahan, a move that took most in the league by surprise. Shannahan was replaced by another offensive whiz, former Patriots assistant Josh McDaniels. Most thought quarterback Jay Cutler would benefit from the change, because of the work that McDaniels put in with Cassel last season.

Apparently, McDaniels wasn’t among those thinking that way. Word is that before Cassel was traded to Kansas City, the Broncos were one of the teams trying to make a deal with the Patriots for the quarterback.  A proposed deal that would have sent Cutler to Tampa, Cassel to Denver, and picks to New England fell through. In a different move, reported the Lions were trying to acquire Cassel and flip him to Denver for Cutler.

The whole situation has left Cutler, the man most thought would be the quarterback to (finally) replace John Elway, just a little ticked off.

“I’m upset. I mean I’m really shocked at this point,” Cutler told The Denver Post. “I could see why they want Cassel. I don’t know if they think I can’t run the system or I don’t have the skills for it. I just don’t get it. Or if they don’t think they can sign me with my next contract. I just don’t know what it is. I’ve heard I’m still on the trading block.”

The next few months are going to be very interesting in Denver. Can McDaniels and Cutler work out their differences? Do they even want to? And, what would the Broncos get for him if they do eventually make a deal?

When the dust settles, expect Cutler to be moved somewhere else. if McDaniels is anything like his old boss (Bill Belichick), then Cutler’s as good as gone. The Patriots way is not to moan and groan to the media. Cutler did that, and there will be consequences.

For Cutler’s sake, I just hope those consequences don’t include wearing the Honolulu Blue of the Lions.