News, Analysis & UpdatesMarch 1, 2009

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Fallout: The Chiefs’ Leap Year?

By R.J. White

On February 28, Scott Pioli and the Kansas City Chiefs swung a deal for the best young QB on the market, acquiring Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from the New England Patriots for the price of a second-round pick. Kansas City will surely sign Cassel to a huge extension, placing the fate of the franchise in 2008’s biggest surprise performer. This move will have a domino effect on players from both teams as well as a certain marquee QB who didn’t get traded by the name of Jay Cutler. Let’s break it down and look at the affected parties.

Matt Cassel

Obviously, the main person affected by the deal is Cassel himself. He goes from being a very rich backup of a future Hall-of-Famer and having no job security, to being the new face of a quickly-improving young franchise and likely being paid like an elite QB. He also moves into one of the best situations he could possibly land in. The Chiefs have a great young nucleus, due in large part to their plethora of 2008 draft picks. They’ve also hired former Arizona OC Todd Haley to coach the team, and his system seemingly plays right into Cassel’s strengths. Pair that with the two great receiving options the Chiefs have and it’s not a stretch to think Cassel could be a quality QB1 in the 2009 fantasy football season.

Tom Brady

When the Patriots franchised Cassel, it was seemingly an indication that they were apprehensive Brady would be ready by Week one. What this trade tells us is that the exact opposite is true: Brady’s recovery must be going well, as the Patriots are ill-prepared to have him miss time this season. Brady can safely be looked at as an elite QB in 2009. New England would still be wise to bring in a quality backup on the cheap. The organization really did themselves a favor by clearing Cassel’s $14 million-plus cap number, as the Patriots have quite a number of holes to fill on defense, including the spot vacated by Mike Vrabel in the aforementioned trade.

Jay Cutler

Josh McDaniels reportedly tried his hardest to insert himself in the Cassel trade talks, offering to send Jay Cutler to certain teams for their first-round pick and then swinging that pick to New England for Cassel. It appears that the Patriots and Chiefs had already agreed to a deal by this point; otherwise, it’s very likely we could have been seeing Cutler in a new uniform in 2009. If you believe Cutler’s agent’s words about how peeved his client is, the distinct possibility still exists that Cutler has played his last snap for the Broncos. It all rests on the shoulders of McDaniels, who would be wise to become Cutler’s BFF from this point on and soothe the emotional franchise QB.

Tyler Thigpen

Sorry Thigpen fans, but the ride is over. Thigpen spent the last part of 2008 doing his best Elite QB impression, leading many teams to their fantasy championship and endearing Thigpen to the hearts of millions. For new Chiefs GM Pioli, that wasn’t enough. Despite flourishing in OC Chan Gailey’s shotgun spread offense, Thigpen will now head back to the bench and count the days till he reaches free agency (and he’ll be counting for a while). Because he had success in the shotgun offense, don’t forget about Thigpen just yet; he’s one injury away from being the hottest pickup of 2009.

Dwayne Bowe

Bowe suffered no sophomore slump in 2008, besting his 2007 rookie year numbers in yardage and TDs and finishing last season with 1,022 yards and seven TDs. Now, he’s the go-to guy in an offense run by the guy that helped the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl (Haley) and the guy that made Thigpen a relevant fantasy name (Gailey). Bowe is an immensely-skilled player and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him vault into the top-five fantasy WR rankings in 2009. If you can still buy low on this budding superstar, do it.

Tony Gonzalez

While Gonzalez might still be sent out of town as the Chiefs work on getting younger, he’s still the second option in what promises to be a pass-happy attack in 2009. As such, he still deserves to be at the top of the TE rankings for now. He’s long said that he wants to be convinced that the Chiefs’ management team is building a contender or he’ll demand a trade. After this move, he has to be content that the Chiefs are taking the right steps into making that happen.

Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles

With the moves the Chiefs are making on offense, it’s become clear that effectively running the ball will become an afterthought for the franchise. Anyone still hoping Johnson can recapture the magic he had early in his career can stop kidding themselves. This team is going to throw the ball early and often, and none of the RBs in New England or Arizona have proven to be every-week starting options. I’d look to get Charles in dynasty leagues, as the new-look Chiefs will play into his strengths and he could establish himself as the team’s primary RB threat, kicking Johnson to the curb for good.

The Chiefs are really positioning themselves well for 2009 and beyond. They finally have a franchise QB and a lot of bright minds in the coaching and executive ranks. Now that the threat of using their third overall pick on a QB is gone, they’ll likely look to bring in LB Aaron Curry, OT Jason Smith, or even WR Michael Crabtree. Any one of those guys can come in and have an immediate impact, turning the Chiefs from a 2008 laughingstock to a 2009 playoff contender.

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years. He is addicted to fantasy sports and loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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