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Matt Cassel will look to jumpstart the Chiefs' offense.
John W. McDonough/SI

There are a few ways to look at Patriots-Chiefs trade in which New England sent linebacker Mike Vrabel and quarterback Matt Cassel to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick.

By acquiring an NFL-ready quarterback and a veteran linebacker, the Chiefs filled two needs without giving up their first-round pick. The Patriots got rid of two players they didn't need in exchange for the 34th overall pick and freed up salary cap money. It is no surprise that this deal was a good one for both teams.

Having worked side by side in New England for years, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Chiefs general manger Scott Pioli know each other way too well for either one to think he could fleece the other. They probably know exactly what the other one wants to do, making it easier and less stressful for the teams to make a deal.

The Patriots have a paint-by-numbers system where no player is irreplaceable or invaluable. The ultimate proof came last season when quarterback Tom Brady went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. Cassel  proved a quarterback who hadn't started a game since high school can flourish with the Patriots.
 
Nobody should interpret the Cassel trade as a definite signal that Brady will be ready at the start of the season. As Belichick likes to say, you'll have to wait until the injury report comes out. But the trade shows the team has confidence that Kevin O'Connell, a third-round pick last year, could step in just like Cassel did for Brady.

Vrabel, an immensely popular player and defensive leader who was a fixture on the three Super Bowl champion teams and caught an occasional touchdown passes, will turn 35 next season and it had become increasingly clear that age had caught up to him. Trading him was another step in the continuing process of getting younger on defense.
 
There was no guarantee that Vrabel would even make the team next season. So the Patriots spared him the indignity of possibly being cut by sending him a team that will use him. Not that Belichick ever cared what the players, media or fans thought about him.

As in any trade the Patriots make, there are always other moving pieces. The same will be true with the Chiefs. Now that he has a quarterback, Pioli doesn't have to use that third overall pick to draft one. If he chooses, he can trade down and get a lower first-round pick and probably a second-rounder. Pioli can also trade quarterback Tyler Thigpen for a pick in the later rounds.

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