Vikings agree to trade Cassel to Bills for draft pick
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills agreed on a trade Wednesday that will send quarterback Matt Cassel to the Bills next week and give the Vikings extra draft picks.
The Bills are sending two undisclosed draft choices to the Vikings and getting one undisclosed pick in the deal announced six days before NFL transactions can begin with the start of the new league year.
The trade can’t be completed until then, but the announcement wouldn’t have been made if there were any potential roadblocks pending.
The trade also wouldn’t have been initiated had the Vikings not been confident in Teddy Bridgewater, the first-round draft pick who took over as the starter in the third game of last season after Cassel broke his left foot.
Cassel spent two years with the Vikings, taking over in 2013 after Christian Ponder struggled to keep the job. Cassel’s production was up and down, with a total of 14 touchdown passes and 14 turnovers in 12 games, but his experienced, encouraging presence was valuable to have around while Bridgewater got his career going.
That’ll be the goal for the Bills, too, with Cassel starting his 11th NFL season and EJ Manuel still in the developmental stage.
This was their “Plan B,” after a failed bid to sign free agent Josh McCown last week. McCown instead chose the Cleveland Browns, who gave him a three-year contract.
Bills running back Fred Jackson was excited by Cassel’s addition because it brings an element of competition.
“It’s one of those things where it’s going to bring their game to the next level,” Jackson told The Associated Press by phone from New York City, where he was being presented with the Jefferson Award for Public Service. “And whoever wins that position, they have to be at their best in order for us to win games. And it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Buffalo entered the offseason with Manuel as the only quarterback on the roster after Kyle Orton announced his retirement a day after the season ended. Manuel has been inconsistent, with difficulty staying healthy since his selection in the first round of the 2013 draft.
Manuel had a 4-6 record during a rookie year in which he was sidelined by three separate knee injuries. Last season, Manuel was benched after a 2-2 start and replaced by Orton. Though Manuel will have his chance to reclaim the starting job, he now will have competition. The Bills, under new coach Rex Ryan, have expressed a desire to add at least two quarterbacks for 2015.
The trade for Cassel came on the heels of a blockbuster move the Bills agreed to Tuesday night, a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire running back LeSean McCoy in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Jackson credited the front office for being aggressive in addressing team needs.
“The guys in the locker room are excited about it,” he said. “We know moves like this made in early March can help us throughout the season.”
After finishing 26th out of 32 in the league last year in total yards, the Bills have focused on improving their offense after missing the playoffs for the 15th straight year. The Bills finished 9-7, their best record since 2004.
In January, the Bills took a gamble to upgrade their offensive line by signing guard Richie Incognito, who had been out of football since the middle of the 2013 season for his involvement in a bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins.
Fox Sports reported that the Bills will send their fifth-round pick this year and a seventh-round selection in 2016 to the Vikings, who will give their 2015 sixth-round pick to the Bills. The Bills were already without a first-round or a fourth-round selection in the 2015 draft.
Cassel has a $4.15 million base salary this season and some bonuses due, so the trade will create close to $5 million more in salary cap space for the Vikings.
Cassel spent the first four seasons of his career with New England, Buffalo’s AFC East rival. He guided the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008 after taking over for an injured Tom Brady. Cassel’s finest performance came in 2010 with Kansas City. He threw for 27 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions while being picked for his only Pro Bowl and leading the Chiefs to the playoffs that year.
With Ponder becoming an unrestricted free agent, Bridgewater will be the only quarterback of significance on Minnesota’s roster. Pat Devlin was added to the practice squad last November and then signed a reserve/future contract after the regular season.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.
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