Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Sep 2015

Cowboys Trade for Matt Cassel

In a not ridiculous move, the Dallas Cowboys traded for quarterback Matt Cassel today, dealing a 2017 fifth-round pick to Buffalo for Cassel and a 2017 seventh-round pick. (Because of previous trades, the Cowboys didn't have a 2016 pick past the fourth round to offer in a deal.) Cassel offers good insurance in case Brandon Weeden is terrible as the new Dallas starter, although it's expensive insurance because Cassel has a $2 million contract. Yes, Cassel is mediocre at best, but that mediocrity may be better than Brandon Weeden's best. Certainly, behind that Dallas offensive line, you've got to think Cassel would avoid the pressure issues that turn him into Rusher McFumbles. Of course, neither Cassel nor Weeden is going to have Dez Bryant to throw to or DeMarco Murray to draw the defense's attention away.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 Sep 2015

58 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2015, 6:19am by fest201620


by Scott de B. :: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 10:22pm

And we see Belichick thinking ahead and inserting an inside agent on the Cowboys' roster in advance of their meeting two weeks from now.

by FrankAngelo :: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 11:27pm

Find an excuse to mention the biggest cheaters in the league more. It's not a fucking joke. They're ruining the sport.

Also in before RGIII to the cowboys.

by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:25am

Is this really the appropriate site for that paranoid crybaby stuff?

by PatsFan :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:11am

Just so you know, the ref in the NE/BUF game works for a company that was one of the contractors that was involved in the construction of Gillette Stadium thirteen years ago. Now, while it is true that the ref didn't start work for that company until long after the stadium was done and the firm paid, one can't overlook the reach of Kraft's tentacles. So consider this a PSA to help make sure you are aware of yet another one of Kraft's evil plots to fix games, etc.

by usernaim250 :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 1:34pm

I hope that's a joke.

by Not Jimmy :: Thu, 09/24/2015 - 1:55pm

Is no one screening these posts? Language, Language.

- Anything is possible when you have no idea what you are talking about.

by Theo :: Fri, 09/25/2015 - 6:35pm

Hooray for censorship!

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:25am

That actually sounds just like Belichick. "Hmm, we face the Cowboys without Romo, Bryant, Hardy, Gregory, McClain, McClain (yes, two McClains), and Scandrick. That's not good enough. I paid off the contractor years ago, so I've got AT&T Stadium rigged to mess with their communications. I've paid off their equipment guy so their balls will be overinflated. But I still need an edge. If only I had an inside man. I've got it! I'll arrange for a Dallas stripper to whisper "Sign Matt Cassell" into Jerry's ear. Now that oughta do it."

by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 10:24pm

I think The Ponderous One worked out in Dallas this morning. When your career prospects would measurably improve, if Matt Cassell retired, you're doing it wrong.

by Alex51 :: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 11:05pm

Man, when you're actually giving up a draft pick to get Matt Cassel on your roster, you're having a very bad day.

Of course, it's still a better trade than Kelly's Foles-Bradford swap.

by Rich A :: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 11:49pm

I don't understand why Dallas doesn't sign Pryor.

I mean he's not an amazing system player that's going to run their offensive scheme but their scheme is all shot to garbage if they're going to rely on Weeden or Cassel. At least with Pryor you're going to get someone that is an athlete that you can run a crazy wing offense with.

That or Tebow.

I mean, Weeden?!? Really? Cassel?!? Really? Cassel looked competent with Randy Moss and Welker and 3 years of preparation. Otherwise he's look replacement level. Weeden is on the Curtis Painter level of play (Okay, maybe this is unfair to Weeden as I've only really seen highlights since I've never watched a Browns game that he started).

At least with Pryor you're getting a poor man's Rothlisberger/Kapernick combination.

Take the dominant offensive line/sandlot/high school-college idea to the limit and just start playing wacky ideas. I mean, at least that could be fun.

(In what could be epic trolling, the cowboys could take Pryor or Tebow and run Chip Kelly's plays from his Oregon days - that would be hilarious).

by PaddyPat :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 12:07am

Garrett's offense is and always has been predicated on the running game. Power running into play action and deep balls. A mediocre quarterback will look better behind that line, and if the 'boys can get the backs on track, the quarterback just has to be supplementary. I think Cassel is capable of playing reasonable supplementary football.

by Tim Wilson :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:52pm

That's not entirely true...Garrett leverages the running game, yes, but he's always had a fair amount of Coryell built into his scheme as well. Below link has an interesting breakdown of Garrett's schemes historically and how they fall into the Coryell school, some of it even by way of Mike Martz:


by Noah Arkadia :: Thu, 09/24/2015 - 10:28am

I actually think Weeden is perfect for that offense. Give him a clean pocket and he can throw really well, from what I remember. Plus, he might have got better.

Who, me?

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 12:25am

I'm no Pryor expert, but my impression is that he can't throw the ball in the ocean, during a 6 month cruise on the USS Nimitz.

The NFL desperately needs a developmental league where qbs can get reps that are needed to loearn to play the position, and hone their skills. The non-starters just spend way too much time standing around, to be prepared when the bell rings. The Vikings kept a 3rd qb on the roster, undrafted free agent Taylor Heinecke, who played FCS division his first 3 years in college, because the guy showed enough in preseason to make it very unlikely that other teams would have left him unclaimed, if the Vikings had tried to put him on the practice squad. The guy just appears to have a significant amount of raw talent, physical and mental.

Now, unless Bridgewater gets hurt or just sucks beyond description, Heinecke's progress will likely be very slow, because he can't do much given the time constraints. Furthermore, the CBA prohibits the sort of legendary off-season work that, for instance, Favre was put through when Green Bay/Mike Holmgren got ahold of him. Without that offseason work, humanity likely loses the most famous jeans model ever. Seriously, there could be HOF qbs stashed on rosters that will never get there, because the league just has nothing to develop the most important position, if a guy isn't in a situation to start quickly.

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:43am

I'd love to see an NCAA conference, probably a mid-major, say "You know what, screw it, we're mandating that our teams use a Pro-style offense."

As long as there are coaches like Rich Rodriguez (unfair to single him out, but he's a good example, and I don't follow NCAA that closely anymore to identify any but the most famous coaches) who install these high-school or 1940s offenses where the quarterback is a glorified running back -- and can reliably win with it, keeping bosses and donors happy -- there will continue to be a lack of development of QBs which can look competent it what we call Pro-style offenses.

If the MAC decided to mandate Pro-style, their recruiting would improve, they would be getting more players drafted, which would improve their recruiting more, and once they start beating the big boys semi-regularly, we would probably see a proliferation of pro-style offenses, and consequently, quarterbacks who arrive in the NFL with an acceptable baseline of quarterbacking skill.

Anyway, just spitballin'

by jtr :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 8:12am

The market already does that on its own a little bit; Florida State has to look awfully good to QB prospects right now after their "pro style" offense got Winston drafted first overall even as he had a down year in his final season in college. And the NFL is starting to learn that "pro style" isn't the only way that works; it's better to draft Newton or Wilson and build an offense around his skills than it is to draft Gabbert or Leinart just because they fit the stereotype of what an NFL QB looks like. Plus, guys like Newton, Wilson, and rookie RG3 showed that athletic QBs can shorten the initial learning curve at the position because they don't need to have such a refined feel in the pocket if they can threaten the defenses in other ways.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 8:31am

I was referring more to the fact that guys who arrive in the league unready to start, but good enough, or just not quite good enough, to make a roster or practice squad, get their development frozen, because they have no place to get reps. It's a terrible way to manage talent

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:37am

Hell, there's a ton of training academy's for getting kids ready for the combine. You'd think one of them would be smart enough to start an off-season quarterback school for rookies. Teach them the basics of how to read a defense, work on shaky mechanics, etc. while not breaking the rules of limited team activity. They could even get notes from the kids team as to what they want him to work on. Sounds like a great business opportunity for some out of work former NFL coach that has a track record of developing QB's.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:57am

A guy like Mariucci or Billick could have a nice business. The key would be to have no direct communication with the teams, so as to avoid any accusation of a CBA violation. Seriously, Favre likely doesn't get to the HOF, without Gruden, Mariucci, and Reid (what a coaching staff!) working him like a mule in those first few critical offseasons.

(edit) There are some real potential breakthroughs with the use of virtual reality technology as well. Think about how commercial pilot training would be retarded if flight simulators had never been developed. If somebody ever develops a helmet which really immerses a qb in a simulated football field with 21 other players on it (and I've read some stuff which indicates the technology is getting there), then you coud really accelerate the learning curve. Think about "playing" 600 pass plays, against a wide variety of defensive fronts and stunts, in the course of a week, coupled with the passing drills to get proper mechanics to be habitual. All of a sudden, a starter getting hurt doesn't have to be a near-guaranteed disaster.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:14am

I think about half dozen NFL teams have bought a system from one vendor. It is getting there. I think the day is not too far off where a guy who has never taken a snap in aregular season game will get put on the field, after an injury, and will surprise everyone with how seasoned he appears.

by JimZipCode :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:39am

A guy like Mariucci or Billick could have a nice business.

God, not Billick. Did you watch the Ravens QBs, 1999-2007?

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:49am

Eh, it wasn't Billick's fault that Grbac had no heart, and Ossie Newsome was the guy who kept putting stiffs on the roster. Billick did a terrific job with a parade of qbs in Minnesota.

by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:52am

That would be helpful but I don't think it is a substitute for actual game experience with high level competition.
I could be wrong though, maybe something like putting on VR helmets and having virtual Revises and virtual Gronkowskis running around could help teach NFL level decision making at NFL speed.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:58am

We are in agreement on the technology angle; it really is an area ripe for something revolutionary.

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:38am

1. It isn't the college's responsibility to prepare quarterbacks for the NFL. They seem like the minor leagues of the NFL, players go to specific schools to prepare for the NFL, but their main responsibility (besides actually educating student-athletes, which many of these universities shirk), is to win. No coach on the collegiate level is going to get fired for not preparing his quarterbacks for the NFL if he is winning.

2.The NFl shares a lot of blame here. Just take a look at my favorite team, the Jets. Jets fans and their enemies like to claim they haven't had a franchise quarterback since Namath. The team has had two homegrown ones since Namath: Ken O'Brien, and Chad Pennington. Because O'Brien got drafted ahead of Marino, Jets fans gripe about him, but he was a solid quarterback for 6 years. If you put 1985 Ken O'Brien on Rex Ryan's first two Jets teams, they have a great chance to win it all. Unfortunately, he played for Joe Walton. After taking about 500 sacks in six years, he was done.

Chad Pennington was a franchise quarterback who couldn't stay healthy. But the team did not protect him well enough. His first injury came in a preseason game, when their starting center was out. He led the league in passer rating the year before, so why risk him in a meaningless preseason game? I don't know, ask Herm Edwards.

I feel a large part of the quarterback problem in the NFL is a coaching problem and a general manager problem; they don't protect their investments. Look at the Colts; Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, but the Colts have allowed him to be hit much more than any other quarterback over the last three years. They are squandering their investment.

by tballgame :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 12:58pm

No college coach will be fired for not preparing his quarterbacks for the NFL, but if you prepare your quarterbacks for the NFL, it could help your quarterbacks get drafted into the NFL and if you get your quarterbacks drafted into the NFL, it should help recruiting, which helps you win and change schools to make more money.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 2:22pm

That's a relatively long-term proposition, though, and, while there certainly seems to be more job security for coaches in college than your typical NFL team, it's still tough to think that, if you recruit and develop several NFL-quality starters, better players will automatically come and I therefore have job security. Besides, having an NFL-quality QB doesn't exactly guarantee college success, and being a good college QB very frequently doesn't equate to pro success (see, Tebow, Tim).

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 2:29pm

Like you said, you have to wait 3-4 years before this is even a promotional tool. Even then it might not work out. Unless you have a QB so talented he'll actually benefit from a pro-system and make it to the NFL, it's pointless.

by David C :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:41am

Pro-style offenses are important for a qb and the wide receivers to a lesser extent, but the offensive line? The running back? The defense? No recruitment trouble there

by Scott de B. :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 4:17pm

"As long as there are coaches like Rich Rodriguez (unfair to single him out, but he's a good example, and I don't follow NCAA that closely anymore to identify any but the most famous coaches) who install these high-school or 1940s offenses where the quarterback is a glorified running back -- and can reliably win with it, keeping bosses and donors happy -- there will continue to be a lack of development of QBs which can look competent it what we call Pro-style offenses."

Kind of funny as for years and years the talking heads said Nebraska couldn't win with a run-heavy style of play as recruits wouldn't go anywhere that didn't run a pro-style offense.

by BrownsFan27 :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:25pm

Yeah, great idea! Change the rules to make NCAA football more boring so that the NFL orthodoxy (that has never produced more than 10 or so QBs that are capable of running this Pro-Style Offenseâ„¢ at a time anyway) can continue to stock the "talent" pipeline with unathletic stiffs. That's what we need in Sunday football: More Brandon Weedens and Matt Cassels instead of more Tyrod Taylors.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 8:29pm

Eh, in large measure it is a false dichotomy, and a 63-56 no defense Big 8 Special is more boring to me than just about any sort of game.

by Temo :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:47am

The offense as it's been implemented all off season and over the past few years needs a quarterback who can make pre snap reads and stay within the pocket until absolutely necessary. That's not Pryor.

by BrownsFan27 :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:27pm

Smart man. Too bad most the NFL is wedded to orthodoxy that elevates middling stiffs like Matt Cassel above players like Tyrod Taylor or Terrelle Pryor.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 7:48pm

Wait - what? You're under the impression that there's some scenario in which Terrelle Pryor is a viable NFL QB? Are you serious or am I misunderstanding?

by dryheat :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:28pm

Must we play in extremes? What about stiffs like Peyton Manning above players like Logan Thomas?

by BJR :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 8:24am

Seems like a desperation move in a situation that probably isn't all that desperate. Romo might miss 8 weeks, but even if the Cowboys win only 2 games in that period they should still be in reasonable shape, with h2h victories against the Giants and Eagles already in the bag, and the rest of the division in varying states of disarray.

But even if they were 0-2, what does Cassel offer other than giving them a choice of replacement level QBs? Weeden did ok in spot duty last season, then again on Sunday. Cassel has been flat-out awful ever since his first season with the Chiefs in 2010 (when he was average) - I see little reason to believe he will be any better. At least give Weeden a chance to completely suck or get hurt before throwing draft picks at the problem.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 8:34am

You need to have a plan for Weeden getting hurt, and they didn't give up much.

by ChrisS :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:32am

As Will said they only had 2 QB's on the roster before Romo got hurt.so they needed to sign someone. If this does not put them on the hook for salary past this year it is not a big deal. But Cassel does suck, but so does Weedon.

by BJR :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:14am

I guess my point was they could surely have gotten somebody for nothing in order to provide depth, at least until Weeden was injured/utterly sucked.

by tballgame :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 1:12pm

I think they would have grabbed a free agent if they were only worried about injury. They are anticipating that it is at least somewhat likely that Weeden will suck and that they need someone to turn to in order to stay afloat until Romo returns. And you need to give the back up at least a week or two to study the playbook before getting thrown in. Ultimately, if they can go 3-5 over the next 9 weeks (including the bye), and Romo and Bryant come back healthy at about that point, they should be fine.

If Weeden et al. go 1-7 over the next 8 weeks, some back up QBs will be getting paid in 2016.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:35am

I have a hard time thinking of swapping a future 5th for a 7th and taking on $2M with no future obligations as a desperation move. Seems prudent to me.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 9:04am

Nooooooooooooo! Anything that reduces the possibility of camera shots of a distraught Jerry Jones while Brandon Weeden throws ball after ball 10 yards away from his receivers is terrible!

Matt Cassel seems like a big improvement. That is a really depressing sentence to write.

by MatMan :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:00am

Say what you will about Weeden, but he's very familiar with the offense, and he and his teammates are very familiar with each other. He's the QB in practice the first couple days each week, to reduce wear-and-tear on Romo. Skill aside, he may be the most-prepared backup in the league.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:05am

I think he'll be fine, as long as Marinelli works his magic, and, as a result, Weeden avoids having to throw 40 times.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:31am

"Skill aside" is a pretty big qualifier, though. Brandon Weeden as a starter wasn't just bad, he was comically awful. The level of skill he demonstrated was extremely, extremely low.

As for preparation, I'd think Tampa (Mike Glennon was a starter for parts of two seasons), Houston (Hoyer was the starter), Jacksonville (Henne), and several other teams have experienced veteran backups who have the great advantage of not being Brandon Weeden.

by JimZipCode :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 11:40am

Was hoping the Cowboys would trade for Schaub from the Ravens, and give up a defender in the process.

by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 12:48pm

Eh, this was a cheaper way for Dallas to acquire someone to throw pick-sixes.

by usernaim250 :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 1:43pm

Was hoping for Jeff George.

On a more serious note, I think a plan B of Pryor behind that line might be a good option that costs zero resources.

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 4:44pm

Matt Cassel is probably a better quarterback than Brandon Weeden, belonging as he does to the Journeyman Starter tier which also includes Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and (apparently) Josh McCown.

Brandon Weeden is more in the failed-starter tier of quarterbacks, which includes Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, and Terrelle Pryor.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 6:21pm

Your differentiation of the talents here is mystifying - what does any of this mean? I'm assuming the journeyman tier is higher for some reason, but why? Brian Hoyer is better than Mark Sanchez? Josh McCown is better than Christian Ponder? Or just a different kind of terrible? This is totally mystifying.

These are all bad QB's, including Cassell and Weeden.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/24/2015 - 8:32am

Yeah, those distinctions seem more based on history than competence, and consequently put Sanchez in the wrong group. I think I'd rank those QBs McCown, Fitzpatrick, Sanchez, Hoyer, Cassell, Ponder, Weeden, Prior, but the biggest gap there is between Cassell and Ponder. And yes, every single one of those guys sucks.

by BJR :: Thu, 09/24/2015 - 11:27am

Well, Cassel has demonstrated periods of competent NFL QB play, which differentiates him from Weeden etc. However, the fact that the last of these periods was in 2010, since when he has been horrifyingly bad, suggests there is very little chance of it happening again. But I guess such is the dearth of QBs, the memory of those periods of competence, no matter how distant, is enough to keep these journeymen in demand. Josh McCown's half season in Chicago will probably be enough to keep him employed until he is 40.

I suppose with Weeden you might suggest there is insufficient evidence that he is completely awful, as his only period as a starter was for a dysfunctional, inept Browns franchise.

But yes, at this stage they are both highly likely to be bad QBs.

by Tim Wilson :: Wed, 09/23/2015 - 10:36pm


by Not Jimmy :: Thu, 09/24/2015 - 1:55pm


by fest201620 :: Thu, 12/03/2015 - 6:19am