Points to consider in Cassel deal

There are rumblings in the agent community and even in the media that the Matt Cassel deal was under market and a win for the Chiefs.

First, let me say that agents will always be the first to criticize other agents’ deals – off the record, of course. Most reporters have one or two agents they go to for source information and opinion. The agent will always find something to criticize because it’s self-serving, although the reporter needs the information and wants an opinion. Even when an agent does rip one out of the park, you’ll never hear one of his contemporaries praise him. The industry is filled with too much competitiveness and jealousy for that to happen.

Consider the franchise tag of $14.65 million for QBs this year, which is what Cassel could have made this season, versus the security of $28 million in guaranteed money for a second-year starter. The fact he could have gone the franchise route again for a possible $17.58 million in 2010 does make this deal appear to be under market.

However, there are a few things to consider when evaluating this deal:

- Chiefs GM Scott Pioli is a hard-line negotiator. I’ve had about five dealings with him over the past five years, and I know that if I were an owner, my money would be well spent with Scott because he works in small increments and rarely overpays for players. You won’t see a lot of premium deals coming out of K.C.

- Scott knows Matt well and obviously doesn’t think he’s a one-hit wonder. Scott also knows that Matt probably benefited from the stable Patriots environment (system, players, coaches) and could struggle with a new cast around him in a less stable developing environment. Scott doesn’t want Matt to worry about having to set his value with a new team in a rebuilding year.

- Injury. It doesn’t pay to get insured anymore. The cost of career-ending insurance for players is astronomical and rarely feasible. Furthermore, it’s hard to collect, and insurance companies are often reluctant to pay. So the old days of playing out the year and insuring what would have been your guaranteed money simply don’t apply.

- The downside. I’m sure Cassel and his seasoned agent know that 2009 can be a challenging year because of the meshing process the Chiefs’ offense will be going through. If Matt and the offense struggle, he and his agent would have lost leverage and possibly even a 2010 franchise tag opportunity. Ouch.

- Agents and players value deals on their three-year totals and guaranteed money. This one was about $27 million in guaranteed money and about $40 million for the first three years. An average of $13.5 million for three years does seem a bit below market, but if Matt struggles, he’ll still be paid. If he’s just average, he’ll be paid. If he blows up, well, he’ll be back at the table in 2012 with the leverage for a new deal.

As an agent, when there are too many unknowns or uncontrollable factors, such as new coaches and new systems, you have to take the money as the “known,” which is better than the “unknown.” If this is the highest Scott was willing to go, I also would have advised my client to take the money rather than the risk.

One more thing: Agents get paid only two percent of a contract if a player is franchised the first time, 1.5 percent the second time and one percent the third time – as opposed to being paid up to three percent for a negotiated salary. Maybe that’s one reason we don’t often see players play through consecutive franchise tags.

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