As for Branch, to update: The Patriots reportedly have offered their
leading receiver (in two of the past three seasons) a three-year
extension, through 2009, worth $19 million that includes $8 million
in bonuses. Branch's agent, Jason Chayut, hasn't so much as countered
that offer. Word is Branch wants a deal that averages $8 million to
$9 million per season and includes $12 million in bonuses. There's
also been talk that he wants a contract similar to the six-year, $39
million deal (including a $13.5 million bonus) the Colts' Reggie
Wayne received this year just before he was to become a free agent.
There was talk last week that the Patriots might have increased their
offer to four years, $24 million, with $10 million in bonuses, but
both Chayut and a high-ranking team official said that was not the
case. Fact is the sides aren't even negotiating; Chayut says he and
the Patriots haven't talked since before camp.
Chayut has said that Branch would report if the team would promise
not to use the franchise designation after the season. Short of such
an agreement, the signs point to Branch, who can be fined up to
$14,000 a day, sitting out well into the season.
Of course, Branch has outperformed his contract. He deserves to be
fairly compensated for catching 21 passes in two Super Bowls (he was
the MVP of XXXIX) and averaging 20 yards on 41 career postseason
receptions. His value to the team is far greater than the $1.045
million he is to make this season, the last of his rookie contract.
But the Patriots aren't about to give in to Branch's demands. Before
they do, they'll bring Jerry Rice out of retirement as they did with
Junior Seau. They won't panic because their QB is money, especially
with a running game he can count on.
Sure, New England's offense will miss a beat. Branch is by far the
Patriots' best receiver. But Brady and his band will play on. And
***** I'll say again, personally I love Branch, however, if he
thinks he is worth $9 Million a year, he has been hanging out with
Ricky Williams way too much.