Four years ago, the Chiefs made a commitment to Matt Cassel. The kind of commitment they had made to no quarterback before him.
They lavished Cassel with a six-year contract worth almost $63 million, a sign that they expected him to be the franchise quarterback that the team has long failed to develop.
They acknowledged that the move was a failure on Thursday when Cassel was released from the last two seasons of that contract. He has reportedly agreed to terms of a new contract with Minnesota, where he could compete for the starting spot with the Vikings’ incumbent, Christian Ponder.
Cassel’s departure from the Chiefs became imminent this week when they completed the trade with San Francisco for new starter Alex Smith and signed Chase Daniel as a free agent to back up Smith.
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The Chiefs tried to trade Cassel, but the task was difficult given his 2013 salary of $7.5 million.
Cassel came to the Chiefs in 2009 as the first player added under the new football administration of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley. Cassel and Pioli had previously worked together with the New England Patriots, and Pioli saw Cassel as a young quarterback the Chiefs could build around.
Cassel had a big season in 2010, when he threw 27 touchdown passes and seven interceptions and made the Pro Bowl as the Chiefs won the AFC West championship.
But otherwise, his time with the Chiefs was a disappointment. The Chiefs repeatedly changed offensive coordinators, and other than Dwayne Bowe, failed to field a potent group of receivers around Cassel.
That all took its toll on Cassel. Not counting his Pro Bowl season in 2010, he threw 32 touchdowns and 37 interceptions with the Chiefs.
The beginning of the end came midway through last season, when Cassel was benched in favor of Brady Quinn. Cassel’s support further eroded in January when Pioli was fired and the Chiefs hired a new administration of general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.
Now the Chiefs have moved on to Smith, who ironically is in much the same situation as Cassel was four years ago.
“As we move forward in the 2013 season, we feel very fortunate that Alex will be a member of the Chiefs franchise for years to come,” general manager John Dorsey said.