ESPN is reporting that the Patriots are going to franchise Matt Cassel this off-season. To me this move makes a lot of sense considering the Pats won't know if Tom Brady will be 100% next year. Letting Cassel leave as a free agent would be pretty costly, so this gives them time to monitor Brady's health and possibly trade Cassel later in the off-season or keep Cassel as an insurance policy.
What's unclear is whether they will designate him with an "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" franchise tag. Exclusive franchise players have to be paid at least that average of the top 5 at his position based on salaries for the coming season or 120% of his salary, whichever is greater. Non-exclusive franchise players have to be paid at least that average of the top 5 at his position based on the previous seasons salaries or 120% of his salary, whichever is greater. Also, non-exclusive franchise players can negotiate with other teams, but the team that tags him has the right to match and if they don't match they get two first round picks.
So for Cassel he would get paid the average of the top 5 quarterback salaries, which comes out to about $14 million in addition to the $15 million that Brady is going to get paid. It will be interesting to see how this changes the Pats ability to pursue free agents. I wouldn't be surprised to see them use the non-exclusive tag figuring if they can get 2 first round picks it would be worth it.
For the Jets, if this happens it take another QB alternative off the market. There aren't many great options at QB who are free agents:
Warner and Collins are probably going back to Arizona and Tennessee, respectively. Other than that, Garcia is the only one I'd have any interest in if I'm the Jets. They also could trade for Derek Anderson, but that's pretty risky too. If they stick with Kellen Clemens, then they'll have to add someone as a back-up just in case.
Then again maybe Favre will come back. You never know with this guy.