(Belated) Sunday Sports Blogging: Collusion?

by Brien Jackson

I’ve long maintained that the decline of political media pretty well tracks the decline of sports media. Long story short, there aren’t that many “games” people care about in the grand scheme of things, so most of the time you have to find other ways to fill the airtime on your network. That means you can either re-run the same highlights over and over, or you can bring people in to talk about the “games.” And those people can either all say the same thing, or you can find people, like Skip Bayless, who exist to do nothing but say obviously stupid things in the name of creating a controversy that can be argued about. And since that makes the best television, that’s what you’ll get.

So with that in mind, it’s not particularly surprising that I see the shouting heads on ESPN throwing out the word “collusion” in regard to the New England-Kansas City Matt Cassel/Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick trade. It makes a lot of sense on the face of it, Cassel had a decent year at the quarterback position, so you might think he had more value than a 2nd round pick, but that’s bunk. The bottom line on this is pretty simple; the draft is everything in the NFL, first round draft picks have an incredibly high value to teams, and Matt Cassel has only put up one year, with a lot of talent around him. Teams don’t know if Matt Cassel can replicate last season, especially on a team like Kansas City where he’s going to have much less talent, especially on the offensive line, than what he had to work with in New England.

It’s also important to remember that New England had absolutely no leverage here whatsoever. It’s a basic rule of negotiating that, in order to get a good deal, you have to be willing to walk away from the table. If the other team knows that you won’t, or can’t not make a deal, then they’ll just wait you out until you cave. And, in this case, New England couldn’t say no. They still have a guy named Tom Brady on their team, and with the franchise tag had committed $12 million, all against the cap this coming season, to Cassel to carry a clipboard unless Brady gets hurt. Everyone knows that New England couldn’t afford that, and so they absolutely had to trade Cassel. And that’s going to drive the price down for him. In reality, New England was fairly lucky to get the 2nd pick in the 2nd round, as well as dumping Vrabel’s salary, in moving him.

Finally, color me highly skeptical of the rumors about Denver’s involvement in the matter. It makes for interesting fodder on ESPN, and I don’t doubt that Josh McDaniels might have wanted to do the deal, but anyone who actually believes that management in Denver was going to swap Jay Cutler for Matt Cassel, when Cutler is a better, more proven, quarterback, and give up the 13th pick in the draft on top of downgrading at quarterback, is a fucking idiot.

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