One of the most difficult aspects of NFL personnel evaluation is projecting how a player in one team's system will fit in another system.
This thought came to mind because of two situations that have unfolded in recent weeks:
Banta-Cain was one of the 49ers' significant free-agent signings in March of 2007, inking a reported three-year, $12.2 million contract. In four seasons in New England (2003-2006), he had worked his way into the No. 3 role at outside linebacker, playing primarily in sub packages as a rush specialist, and filling in as a starter in spot duty.
The 49ers looked at that body of work and made a projection that Banta-Cain was ready to make the jump to full-time starter in their scheme.
It turned out to be a mistake.
While Banta-Cain and Cassel are obviously two significantly different situations -- two different players at different positions with different resumes -- they do share a link when it comes to teams making that all-important projection.
Because the Patriots have one of the top coaching staffs in the NFL, they do a terrific job putting their players in position to succeed -- highlighting their strengths and not leaving them in situations where they will be overly vulnerable.
The Patriots seemed to get the most out of Banta-Cain ... just as they did Randall Gay ... Eugene Wilson ... Dante Stallworth ... Tom Ashworth Ö all players who were awarded larger contracts elsewhere but haven't/didn't thrive like they did in New England.
There are cases where other teams make the correct projection with a Patriots player (e.g. Eagles, Asante Samuel), although one has to look a little harder to find them.
So the most important question that interested teams must ask themselves when it comes to Cassel is: How will Cassel transfer from the Patriotsí system to our system?
Itís the ultimate challenge for any personnel evaluator, and it seems to take on an added importance when assessing players from the Patriots because of the excellence of the coaching staff and the strong system in place.