A day after word leaked that the Buffalo Bills are on the verge of making one of the larger trades in franchise history, they announced another deal that falls far shorter in the splash department.
Although this one involves the position that has generated the majority of discussion through the offseason, it provides little hope that the Bills are much better off at the spot now than they were at the end of last season.
Matt Cassel gives the Bills an experienced quarterbacking hand, but not a whole lot else.
He certainly won’t have the impact that LeSean McCoy will bring to the running game via the trade reported Tuesday that will send the Philadelphia Eagles’ star back to Buffalo in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso.
The fact the Minnesota Vikings were willing to part ways with the 10-year veteran for a modest price (the Bills reportedly gave up this year's fifth-round draft pick and a seventh-rounder next year in exchange for Cassel and a 2015 sixth-round choice) is telling, especially for a team that could use a veteran presence behind second-year starter Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel's cap hit is a very manageable $4.75 million.
The Bills want someone to challenge EJ Manuel for the No. 1 job, and Cassel presumably will get the chance to compete. But it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see him end up as an understudy. Cassel spent the last two seasons with the Vikings, and started only 12 games.
He has had only two impactful seasons during his NFL career: 2008 with the New England Patriots, who made him a seventh-round draft pick from USC in 2005, and 2010 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The '08 season was when Cassel replaced Tom Brady, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the schedule, and became a pleasant surprise by leading the Patriots to an 11-5 finish (although they lost out on a playoff spot in a tie-breaker with Miami).
The breakout season earned him a trade to the Chiefs, who wanted him as their starter and gave him a big contract commensurate with his newfound high-profile status. However, beyond helping the Chiefs to a 10-6 finish in '10 with 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions, Cassel never would prove to be the franchise player they thought he would be.
What Cassel mostly demonstrated during four seasons with the Chiefs, and later with the Vikings, was that he was more a product of the Patriots’ offensive system that allowed him to thrive with a lot of short/medium, high-percentage throws than a true starter-level talent. He rarely was asked to win games with his passing arm, something that was ultimately exposed when the Chiefs put him in position to do so.
Still, after Kyle Orton’s retirement the day after the 2014 season, the Bills needed experience at quarterback. At the very least, Cassel gives them someone who can provide guidance to Manuel and, perhaps, another young quarterback they acquire in the coming days/weeks/months.
Could Cassel amount to more than that? Unlikely, but we'll see.