It had been rumored for a while, but now it's official: the Patriots are using their franchise tag on QB Matt Cassel.
The move means the quarterback remains a free agent, but the Patriots can match any offer made by another team or allow him to sign with that team in exchange for two first-round draft picks.
If and when he signs the one-year franchise tag designation, worth $14.65 million for 2009, he will be under contract to the Patriots, who could keep him or trade him.
I wrote about the fantasy impact of this about a month ago and everything I wrote then is still applicable now, so I'd recommend clicking on the link. But here are a few more questions that I've helpfully answered:
1) How much of the Patriots salary cap is tied up between Brady and Cassel? About 25%. Can the Patriots really field a competitive team with that kind of handicap? I bet Bill Parcells and Chad Pennington are having a good laugh right now.
2) Will another team trade two first round picks for Cassel? No. And especially not to the Patriots.
3) Will the Patriots engineer a trade for Matt Cassel? Maybe, but the next question is "When"? The obvious answer is "When they're confident Brady's knee is fine" but when the heck will that be? Training camp? Week 1? Week 10? Next February 6th? Who knows?! I wouldn't count on a trade, that's for sure.
Bottom Line Fantasy Impact: Right now it's a major, major risk to draft either Brady or Cassel. Not just drafting them in the first few rounds, drafting them at all. If you pick up either one of them, you have to realize that there's a considerable chance that they might not play a single game.