FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The NFL’s New England Patriots plan to put the franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel, according to a published report.
Cassel’s future hinges heavily on Tom Brady’s recovery from a season-ending knee injury in the first game this season.
Franchising Cassel would keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and give the Patriots an option if they feel Brady might not be ready for the start of the 2009 season. If they’re confident that Brady will be ready, they’d be able to trade Cassel.
The Patriots’ plan for Cassel was first reported by the National Football Post.
“It’s been talked about quite a bit (publicly),” Patriots spokesman Stacey James said Monday. “We won’t be commenting on it until something happens. And if we don’t use it (the tag), we probably won’t comment.”
David Dunn, Cassel’s agent, did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Without a franchise tag, Cassel would become an unrestricted free agent starting Feb. 27. The period in which a team can designate a franchise player is Feb. 5 to Feb. 19.
A team can put the franchise tag on one player a year. It would have to pay that player at least the minimum of the average of the five highest salaries of players at the same position, estimated at $14 million for Cassel.
Cassel hadn’t started in four years at Southern California and three years with the Patriots until the second game of his fourth NFL season, one week after Brady was hurt. Cassel started the remaining 15 games for the Patriots, who missed the playoffs despite finishing at 11-5.
He completed 327 passes for 516 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His 3,693 yards passing were fourth-most in the AFC, and his 63.4 completion percentage was third-best in Patriots history.