The Denver Broncos might have wanted Matt Cassel to replace Jay Cutler, but they weren't nearly as aggressive in pursuing the quarterback as some reports have suggested, according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"They never made that offer to me," Belichick said when asked on sports radio WEEI's "The Big Show" this afternoon whether the Broncos had offered first- and third-round picks for Cassel.
Belichick who spoke to WEEI via telephone while on what he said was a college scouting trip, was uncharacteristically candid regarding several topics, including:
Here are a few of Belichick's more notable comments from the wide-ranging interview:
On whether receiving a second-round pick for Cassel was his expectation after he was designated the team's franchise player:
Belichick:"We put the franchise tag on Matt because we felt he had value to our football team and we wanted to protect that value. If that was with us, fine, and if it wasn't, then that was an option too. We were prepared to have Matt on our team this year, and we would have welcomed that. By rule, you can't trade a player who's not under contract, and when we tendered Matt in early February, that didn't give us the right to do anything. Now, in discussions with Matt and his representatives, he ended up signing a contract [at the end of the NFL Combine]. It was actually hand delivered by his representative. Once we had a signed contract in place, we could technically talk about trading him.
"Not to digress, but with the Julius Peppers situation, I've read things out there about, 'Well, there's trade talks going on.' There's no trade talks going on with Carolina. They don't have a signed contract [because Peppers has not signed his franchise tender]. They can't talk about trading a player who's not signed.
"So [trading Matt before he was under contract] wasn't an option. So in that time period [after the Sunday when we got the signed contract at the Combine] we talked to some teams about Matt's availability, and teams had contacted us. But again, because he wasn't signed, we really couldn't talk about that [before then]. Once he was signed, we followed back up on some of that interest, and by the end of the week, we ended up getting the deal done with Kansas City. But a big component of that was that Matt was under contract.
"And again, you look at it through the Peppers situation, and as we all know Peppers is a great player, still a young player and has a good future in this league, [but he] isn't under contract, can't be traded by Carolina, and is taking up a lot cap space on their roster, which is forcing them to a lot things on their roster . . .
"[With Cassel] in the end, when you trade a player who has only one year on his contract, we weren't in position where we could offer Matt a long-term contact, that just wasn't something that we could do . . . When you trade a player who has only one year left on his contract, that's a lot different than trading a player who has multi-years that a team can commit to. In another situation, we might have been able to get more for a player. So the same player with three years left on his contract is probably worth more in this market than a player with one."
On why he didn't wait longer to make the trade:
Belichick: "We pretty much had the deal done with Kansas City because there really wasn't any interest. And some of the teams said a three-way trade and that kind of thing, and those teams -- and I don't want to get into specifics -- but believe me, those teams I had contact with 24-48 hours before confirmation of the trade with Kansas City and those teams said they had no interest in the player. And you know, all of a sudden, we've got a situation at the last minute, 'Well, we would have done this, we would have done that.' There was no offer. I think there's speculation as to what a team might have been willing to trade.
"What I didn't want to do in the whole situation was to have a trade that dragged on. . . . And at the same time, we saw an opportunity to improve our football team, and when we made the trade for Matt, that brought us a draft choice, and it gave us the chance to sign some players that we think will give us some good depth and good quality on our team. . . . A lot of the talk I've heard out there about what would or wouldn't have been done is a) after the fact and b) conditional on a lot of other things working out. And there's not guarantee all of that would have come together.
"The bottom line is it was never really there, presented. It was like, 'yeah, maybe this could happen,' but it was never presented like here's a firm offer."
On whether the Patriots would try to work out a deal for Peppers through his agent if the player and the Panthers come to an agreement that he will be traded but he doesn't sign the franchise tender:
Belichick: "I think it would probably be possible for a team to . . . well, I think essentially what you're saying is we work out a trade through the agent. They can't talk to the team, they can't talk to the player, but the team could talk to the agent and try to work the trade out through the agent. I mean, I guess that would be possible, but I don't think that's a good way to do business. I personally would not do it that way. I think if a player wants to be traded or wants to be in a position where he could be traded, then the best thing for that player to do is do what Matt Cassel did, sign the tender, be under contract, and then go to the team and say, 'Okay, I don't want to be here, trade me, this is where I want to go.' I mean, that was essentially the Deion Branch situation.
"But you can't trade a player that's not under contract. That's a simple rule. And I'm sure Carolina hasn't tried to do that."
On whether he is handling more of the personnel work now since Pioli's departure:
Belichick: The combine, and all the free agency preparation and draft preparation, we're kind of on the normal schedule there. I guess what is a little bit different this year is that internally, with the new people on the coaching staff and the new people in scouting, we've spent more time probably meeting and going over things and just all trying to get on the same page and making sure that everybody kind of sees things the same way. . . . Otherwise, I'd say it's about the same.
On why Vrabel was traded:
Belichick: "Again . . . you do what you think is best for your team, and Kansas City did what they thought was best for their team. We reached a point of agreement."
On the accusation that the trade to the Chiefs was a favor of some sort to Pioli:
Belichick: "Uh . . . look, I have all the respect in the world for Scott Pioli. He's a great friend, and he's a terrific executive and personnel manager, but I work for the Patriots, I have no loyalty to anybody or any team other than the New England Patriots. Everything I do is for our team to win and be successful. And that's what my commitment is."