MARCH 10, 6:30pm: Cassel has passed his physical and is now officially a member of the Bills, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Tim Graham of the Buffalo News tweets that Cassel initially failed his physical with the team on account of a broken foot. However, the Bills passed him because of the minimal risk associated with the injury.
MARCH 4, 11:53am: According to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports (via Twitter), the Bills are sending one of their 2015 fifth-round picks (from the Buccaneers) and a 2016 seventh-rounder to the Vikings for Cassel, and will get a 2015 sixth-rounder back from Minnesota.
MARCH 4, 11:36am: Following their reported acquisition of LeSean McCoy, the Bills have struck another deal to add an offensive starter. The team announced today that it has agreed to terms with the Vikings on a trade that will send Matt Cassel and an undisclosed draft pick to Buffalo in exchange for two undisclosed picks. Like the McCoy swap, this trade can’t be made official until the new league year begins next Tuesday, but the two sides are in agreement.
Cassel, who turns 33 in May, started just three games for the Vikings in 2014 before a broken foot landing him on the injured reserve list, ending his season. Given the way Teddy Bridgewater took the starting job and ran with it after Cassel went down, the veteran wouldn’t have been more than a backup had he returned to Minnesota — in Buffalo, he’ll get a chance to compete for the starting job.
Cassel, who is entering the final season of a two-year contract he inked last winter, is owed a base salary of $4.15MM, along with a roster bonus of $500K (due March 17) and a $100K workout bonus. The Bills will assume all those amounts, for a total cap hit of $4.75MM, leaving no dead money on Minnesota’s books for the coming year.
After starting his career with the Patriots, Cassel saw his first action as a starter during the 2008 season when Tom Brady was sidelined for the year. He parlayed a solid season in New England into a free agent deal with the Chiefs, and while his stint with Kansas City had some bright stops – including a Pro Bowl 2010 season – the team decided to move on from the signal-caller after a 2012 campaign in which he threw for just six touchdowns to 12 interceptions.
In Buffalo this summer, Cassel figures to battle with EJ Manuel for the No. 1 job, and if the club’s goal is to contend immediately, Rex Ryan and his staff may opt for the veteran. With McCoy expected to be in the mix, and last year’s fourth overall pick Sammy Watkins developing into a big-play threat, Cassel would have some solid weapons at his disposal if he wins the job. The trade allows the Bills to avoid diving into a free agent market where the top available options would have been players like Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, and Jake Locker.
Of course, the Vikings may now become players in that market. While there’s no question that Bridgewater will enter the 2015 season as Minnesota’s top signal-caller, Christian Ponder is eligible for free agency, meaning Bridgewater will be the only QB on the team’s roster as of next Tuesday. Signing a veteran backup as an insurance policy for the second-year man makes some sense for the Vikes.
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