KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Patriots must feel certain Tom Brady's injured left knee will be fine next season.
After putting the franchise tag on Matt Cassel as insurance for their two-time Super Bowl MVP, the Patriots shipped Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City on Saturday. The Chiefs gave up shockingly little — the 34th overall pick in the April draft for both players.
The Chiefs have the third overall selection after a franchise-worst 2-14 season. In yielding their second-round draft choice, they acquire a reliable 12-year veteran linebacker and a proven young quarterback who could immediately fill one of their most urgent needs.
Brady's rehab of a severe knee injury was set back when an infection forced a second operation. By putting the franchise tag on Cassel, New England would have had to pay $14.5 million to keep him.
Cassel hadn't started a game since high school but stepped in when Brady was hurt less than eight minutes into the season opener against Kansas City. He went on to throw for 3,693 yards and 21 touchdowns in 15 starts.
"It is very easy to root for guys like Matt Cassel, who do everything the right way and flourish as a result," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "As much as we would have loved to continue working with Matt, we wish him nothing but the best as he takes this next step forward in his career."
The Patriots' 11-5 record kept them out of the playoffs, but Belichick and personnel director Scott Pioli were again hailed for their ability to reach deep into the draft and uncover a gem at quarterback. Brady was the 199th player drafted in 2000 and Cassel was a seventh-round pick in 2005.
Pioli was hired as Chiefs general manager in January. About a month later, the housecleaning began — he fired coach Herm Edwards and hired Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Now comes this latest move, which depends on Vrabel, 33, and Cassel, 26, passing physicals.
Vrabel was part of three Super Bowl-winning teams in eight years with New England, primarily at outside linebacker.
"I have a long history with both players," Pioli said. "Mike and Matt are men that I respect, both personally and professionally. I look forward to having them as new members of the Chiefs family."
The Chiefs still have Tyler Thigpen, who took over after the top two quarterbacks were injured last season. He was effective but lost 10 of his 11 starts.
Broncos: Seven-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who spent 13 years with the Eagles, signed a five-year, $17 million deal. To the Eagles' fans who relished his hard hits and big plays, Dawkins couldn't bring himself to say farewell. "I'll have a time to really sit down and have a conversation with them, but they know it. I've absolutely enjoyed my time there, and this was a very, very, very emotional decision for me. Very emotional. I've been crying."
Cowboys: Veteran quarterback Jon Kitna, 36, was acquired from the Lions as the likely backup for Tony Romo. The team got Kitna in exchange for starting cornerback Anthony Henry, a former USF standout. … Linebacker Keith Brooking, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, signed a three-year deal worth about $6 million — with about $2.5 million guaranteed.
Eagles: Stacy Andrews and his little brother will form a big wall in front of quarterback Donovan McNabb. Andrews, a right tackle who signed a six-year deal, is the older brother of right guard Shawn Andrews, a former All-Pro.
Jets: Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard, a former Florida standout, was acquired from the Eagles for a fifth-round pick in April and a 2010 pick. Sheppard, who spent his first seven seasons in Philadelphia, could immediately start in a secondary that ranked 29th against the pass in 2008.
Texans: Free agent defensive end Antonio Smith signed a five-year, $35 million deal. The former Cardinal, who had eight tackles and a sack in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers, will team up with defensive end Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. Smith said the Bucs and Giants were among the teams interested in him.
Vikings: Free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was scheduled to meet with team officials. He visited the Seahawks and has an offer to stay with the Bengals.