Friday, August 25, 2006

Time To Branch Out

After a month-long holdout, New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch has been told he can seek a trade.

The star receiver has been looking for a contract extension, and a raise on top of his current salary. He's making just over $1 million this year, the last of his rookie contract.

After failing to agree to terms, and facing a prolonged holdout into the regular season, the Pats told Branch to try and find a deal elsewhere. This by no means guarantees that he'll be on the move, since it requires not only a team willing to meet his contract demands (said to be $40 mil over 6 years), but a team who is also willing to meet the Patriots' trade demands, which is expected to start at one first round draft pick.

The most recent cap figures I could find are from May, and while they don't account for roster moves made since then, or the signing of draft picks, it shows that a number of teams should have the cap room to make a move.

If he does get moved, my guess is that the Pats will want to move him to the NFC, which is too bad for the Chargers, who would be a perfect landing spot for him. They're just on the cusp of being a contender, so it makes sense for them to sacrifice one or two picks for a player that could help push them over the top. Imagine a core of Rivers, LT, Gates, and Branch. Sick.

There are a few NFC teams with cap room, but not many likely to be interested in Branch. Dallas already added T.O. this off-season, and Arizona is deep at receiver as is. That leaves San Francisco and Philadelphia. I'm a big fan of Branch, but I'm wary of sacrificing a first round pick that will likely to be in the top 10 to get him. As for the Eagles, they certainly have the cap room, but have a history of holding on to their draft picks. Right now, their group of receivers has depth, but they lack a proven number one target, which Branch would be. Does Branch justify a salary in the $ 6-6.5 million range, as well as one or two first round picks (likely in the 25-32 range)? I say they should go for it if they can get him to sign to a deal.

Of course, there are other teams that could make a play for him as well. I'm interested to see what develops over the next week. While it's fun to speculate (and I just did), my guess is that Branch is still Patriots property, and sitting at home, once the team-imposed September 1st trade deadline rolls around.


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