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Chiefs keep quiet after landing Cassel, Vrabel in steal of a deal with Pats

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Scott Pioli pulled off a big deal in his first major act as the Kansas City Chiefs' general manager, landing quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel from the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick.

Not a package of draft picks, not the second-rounder and another player, not even with cash thrown into the deal. A potentially franchise-building quarterback and a starting linebacker for one second-round draft pick. That's it.

The obvious question is, how did Pioli get so much for so little?

There's still no answer.

Two days after the trade was announced, the Chiefs again were mum on what seems like a monumentally lopsided deal.

Pioli? Unavailable. Coach Todd Haley? Evasive. Cassel? On speaker phone for his introduction to the Kansas City media. Vrabel? Also not available.

"I won't get into specifics of that," Haley said of the trade Monday. "I'm glad we have both players on the team."

That's it. No discussion of how the trade came together, not even a "we got a good deal." It was calculated, tidy, somewhat mysterious. In other words, very Patriots-like.

Of course, that's no surprise. As vice president of player personnel in New England, Pioli helped turn the Patriots into a dynasty, gathering all the pieces for head coach Bill Belichick to win three Super Bowl titles.

Those ties to New England clearly played some role in the trade for Cassel and Vrabel. How much? It's hard to tell since no one's talking about the deal.

Cassel was talking, but not in person and not about specifics of the trade. Calling in from somewhere in Kansas City, he was thrilled at the chance to be the man after eight years of being the man behind the man.

"I've been working really, really hard for a long time, and I finally had an opportunity last year and got a taste of what it's like to be out there and play and be on the field every snap," Cassel said. "I'm excited that I'll have the opportunity to do the same thing here and try to get this thing going and get on the right track and win ball games."

On paper, the Chiefs clearly got the better end of the deal.

Cassel, after five years on the bench at USC and three more years as Tom Brady's backup in New England, proved to be a more-than capable starter, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record and nearly into the playoffs after Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season opener -- against the Chiefs.

Cassel would have become a free agent during the offseason, so the Patriots hit him with the franchise tag as insurance in case Brady didn't fully recuperate. With Brady's recovery going well, New England opted to trade Cassel instead of paying the 2007 MVP's backup $14.65 million for one year.

Cassel reportedly was part of a proposed three-team trade that would have sent him to Denver and Broncos starter Jay Cutler to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- a rumor that left Cutler feeling a little sour. That deal apparently fell through, and Kansas City was the beneficiary, acquiring a quarterback who threw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns for what amounts to little compensation.

"He's a guy with just one year of experience, but he's coming from a good system and a place where they've done a good job of winning games in the NFL," Haley said. "Anytime you can get a player that's been around winning, I think that's a good thing."

Cassel for a second-round draft pick probably would be seen as a steal. Adding Vrabel, too? That seems like tunnel-under-the-floor bank-heist stuff -- again, on paper.

Though on the downside of his 12-year NFL career, Vrabel will provide a veteran presence to a 2-14 team that was the youngest in the league last season. He also should give the Chiefs some help with a pass rush that had an NFL-record-low 10 sacks in 2008.

The Patriots, whose only comments on the trade were in a statement issued Saturday, cleared $4.3 million from the salary cap by trading Vrabel, a 34-year-old entering the last year of his contract.

"He plays physical, he's a true pro in every sense of the word and, again, you get a guy who's used to winning," Haley said. "Around a young team like we have, I think that's a valuable asset to have on your team. I'm happy to have both guys on this team."

Especially at these prices.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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