Fantasy spin: Patriots franchise QB Cassel

(Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

(Rick Stewart / Getty Images)

The New England Patriots have placed their non-exclusive franchise tag on Matt Cassel, who will now make close to $15 million next season.

That deal is in the same neighborhood as Tom Brady‘s, whose questionable return from reconstructive knee surgery is part of the reason the team is willing to take such a drastic cap hit.

Reports about Brady’s rehabilitation have varied, and the Patriots’ tight-lipped attitude toward injuries could make it hard to find out his expected return date. If Brady is in fact slated to be under center in time for Week 1, the Pats could decide to trade Cassel and avoid having around $30 million invested in one position.

As it stands, Cassel appears to be the first ever non-running back handcuff in fantasy football. Should Brady be forced to miss the start of the season, Cassel would retain the top spot on New England’s depth chart and would be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback.

In the final scenario, in which the Patriots would trade Cassel to another team, I’d be very skeptical about his chances to duplicate his impressive 2008 numbers. In fact, I could see him falling off the fantasy radar if he lands with a team that lacks offensive playmakers and a stable coaching staff.

Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Cassel turned into the 2009 version of Derek Anderson.

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