The next couple of months will be critical as the Patriots assess where they stand and what they want to do with Matt Cassel. Here are a few pros and cons they'll be weighing:
Franchise Matt Cassel and keep him.
Pro: You know you have a quarterback who's healthy and who can succeed in your system -- perhaps the most important ingredient for a championship football team. And if Brady is healthy, you know you have a company guy who would probably be willing to hold a clipboard once again -- particularly with 13 or 14 big ones lining his wallet.
Con: You're spending somewhere around $28 million -- more than 20 percent of a salary cap expected to be in the ballpark of $125 million -- at the quarterback position. It helps that you don't have any huge free-agent needs this season, but you're going to need some spare change soon to work out long-term extensions for Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Ellis Hobbs and Logan Mankins, all of whom will hit the open market after the 2009 season.
You're also spending $14 million on a quarterback who hadn't started a game since high school, a quarterback who might or might not be a product of the Patriots' system and the Patriots' talented wide receivers. Who's to say Kevin O'Connell couldn't do the same thing should Brady not recover in time to start next season?
Franchise Matt Cassel and try to trade him.
Pro: You get some sort of compensation for a guy who might be one of the hottest commodities on the quarterback market this offseason. Why wouldn't the Vikings trade a second-round pick for Cassel? What are they going to do, stick with Tarvaris Jackson?
Con: What if you can't trade him? What if there's no team that wants to trade a second-round pick for a guy who maybe already has signed the $14 million franchise tender? Sure, they could ask him to tear it up for a long-term deal, but given the fact that no NFL contracts actually guarantee anything long-term, why would he?
Let Matt Cassel walk and receive no compensation.
Pro: None of the headaches, both in the locker room and in the salary-cap calculations, that come along with paying two quarterbacks $14 million apiece. You also know that you only spent a seventh-round pick on Cassel and got one amazing season for pretty much nothing; it's almost unfair to ask for more compensation than that.
Con: If you've got a shot either to insure yourself against a Brady setback or to get an extra second-round pick, shouldn't you give it a shot?