The New England Patriots announced today that they have utilized their 2009 franchise designation on quarterback Matt Cassel.
The decision to do so is hardly unexpected and gives the club two main options: They can trade the 26-year-old quarterback if all continues to go well with Tom Brady's rehabilitation from a knee injury, or they can keep him.
The cost of the franchise tag (the average of the top five highest-paid players at a given position) on Cassel is a one-year tender for $14.65 million, according to the transition and franchise tag numbers released Jan. 30 by the NFL Players Association.
Since the franchise tenders are guaranteed, Cassel would count more against the cap than Brady, who is scheduled to carry a cap charge of $14.62 million for 2009. Brady is slated to have a $5 million base salary in 2009 and is due a $3 million roster bonus, so Cassel's take-home pay for '09 would also be more than Brady's.
There is a strong possibility the Patriots will trade Cassel, though Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not indicate that as an option in his comment in today's press release.
"Matt has been a pleasure to coach his entire career and last season in particular, when his years of hard work and commitment resulted in a most impressive performance," said Belichick. "We look forward to working with Matt again in 2009."
Today was the first day teams can designate franchise and transition players.
The 26-year-old Cassel, who made 15 starts after Brady's injury, completed 63.4 percent of his passes and threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
He becomes the first offensive player and just the fourth Patriot to be franchised by the team, joining Adam Vinatieri (2002 and 2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Asante Samuel (2007).
Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.