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Matt Cassel

Matt CasselPatriots trade Matt Cassel to the Chiefs

Patriots reserve quarterback Matt Cassel stepped in for Tom Brady last season and completed 63.4% of his passes for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The reserve quarterback, who guided New England to an 11-5 record in Tom Brady's absence, was sent to Kansas City along with linebacker Mike Vrabel for a second-round draft selection. Broncos sign safety Brian Dawkins.

n a move that gives every indication Tom Brady will be recuperated and ready for next season, New England traded quarterback Matt Cassel to Kansas City on Saturday as part of a package deal for the Chiefs' second-round pick in April's NFL draft.

Also as part of the deal, the Patriots sent Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs, whose new general manager is longtime New England personnel man Scott Pioli.

The Patriots get the 34th pick in the draft.

Cassel, a former backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, was one of the more remarkable stories of the 2008 NFL season. Even though he hadn't started a game since high school, he stepped in for Brady in the first quarter of the opener -- against Kansas City -- when the Patriots' star quarterback went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Over the next 16 weeks, Cassel rounded into a reliable starter who would complete 63.4% of his passes for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Because Cassel was to become a free agent, the Patriots recently applied the one-year franchise designation to him, guaranteeing him a salary of at least $14.65 million for 2009.

"It's very easy to root for guys like Matt Cassel, who do everything the right way and flourish as a result," Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a news release. "As much as we would have loved to continue working with Matt, we wish him nothing but the best as he takes this next step forward in his career."

Vrabel, 33, was a cornerstone of a New England defense that helped the Patriots to three Super Bowl victories this decade. He was a team captain the last four seasons, and reached the Pro Bowl in 2007, when his team became the first in NFL history to finish the regular season 16-0.

"When Mike arrived in 2001, we knew we were adding a solid outside linebacker," Belichick said of Vrabel, who signed as a free agent after beginning his NFL career in Pittsburgh. "But where Mike took it from there exceeded our highest hopes."

Broncos sign Dawkins

The Denver Broncos have signed seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who spent his entire 13-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Although Dawkins turns 36 next season and is clearly on the downside of his career, he brings a hard-hitting style and leadership qualities coveted by new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.

McDaniels, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator before he was hired to replace Mike Shanahan in Denver, envisions his new veteran safety playing a role similar to what Rodney Harrison had in New England in recent seasons.

The Broncos also signed free agent safety Renaldo Hill, who helped lead the Miami Dolphins' turnaround last season

Dawkins figures he has at least a couple more good seasons in him. He started all 16 games last season for the third time in four years and recorded 75 tackles, three sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.

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