Chiefs cut Matt Cassel with 2 years left on deal

Matt Cassel’s rocky career in Kansas City came to an abrupt

ending on Thursday, when the Chiefs released their former starting

quarterback with two years left on his contract.

The decision to cut ties with Cassel came one day after new

general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid held a press

conference to introduce Alex Smith, whom they landed in a trade

with the San Francisco 49ers to be their quarterback of the

future.

Cassel was the first major acquisition by the Chiefs under

previous general manager Scott Pioli, and he was quickly given a

six-year, $63 million contract. But after leading the Chiefs to the

playoffs in 2010, Cassel struggled to live up to the same

expectations.

He sustained a season-ending hand injury two years ago, and then

lost his job to Brady Quinn after sustaining a concussion last

season, spending the rest of the year as the backup.

The Chiefs had been trying to trade Cassel for a late-round

draft pick but, having found no suitors, decided to release him and

carve out additional space under the salary cap. He would have made

a base salary of $7.5 million this season.

Hours later, Cassel reached an agreement to join the Minnesota

Vikings as the backup for Christian Ponder, according to person

with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity

because the deal had not been announced.

”He’s a good football player and deserves the respect we’re

going to try to give him right now,” Reid said. ”We think that’s

important.”

Cassel started 47 of the 48 games he played for the Chiefs,

throwing for 9,549 yards with 59 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.

His best season came three years ago, when he threw for 3,116 yards

and 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions, and led the Chiefs

to the playoffs.

He seemed to be validating the deal made by Pioli to acquire him

from New England.

Then everything began to unravel.

He went 4-5 as a starter in 2011 before hurting his throwing

hand late in the season and landing on injured reserve. During the

offseason, when he appeared in a celebrity softball game as part of

All-Star Game festivities at Kauffman Stadium, he was booed lustily

by the crowd.

The Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley and appointed Romeo Crennel

his successor, and Crennel stuck with Cassel last season. But he

went just 1-7 in eight games under center, and some fans at

Arrowhead Stadium cheered when he sustained a head injury in a loss

to Baltimore.

Cassel briefly lost his job to Quinn, regained it when Quinn got

hurt, and then lost it permanently when he struggled in a loss to

Cincinnati midway through the season.

He took the benching with grace, though, and remained a leader

in the locker room.

But his skill set doesn’t necessarily translate well to Reid’s

offense, and it became clear soon after the new coach was hired to

replace Crennel that Cassel’s time was running out.

The Chiefs agreed to a deal two weeks ago to send their

second-round pick, 34th overall, and a conditional choice in next

year’s draft to San Francisco to acquire Smith, who played well

this past season before sustaining his own concussion and losing

his job to Colin Kaepernick.

”We’ve communicated with him and he understood the situation

that was taking place today,” Reid said of Cassel, shortly after

Smith was introduced at Chiefs’ training facility. ”It wasn’t a

secret to him or his representatives.”

The Chiefs also signed former Saints backup quarterback Chase

Daniel to provide depth behind Smith, and with Ricky Stanzi and

Alex Tanney also on the roster, Cassel became expendable.

”I felt at the end of the day, this was the best fit for this

organization as we being this new chapter,” Dorsey said. ”I think

(Smith) brings us experience, I think he brings leadership. I think

he has all the physical skills to propel us for the years to come

here.”