The economic value of Branch's contract to the Pats
There has been many posts which attempt to establish Deion's value as a WR compared to other WRs (Walker, Stallworth, etc.). These are legit as far as the other team, or buyer, is concerned. The seller, in this case the Pats, places a value on the contract differently.
If they didn't have another year on the contract they would have to pay Branch as much as any other team, about $7-8 M /year based on numbers bandied about, rather than the $1 M in the contract which the Pats own. They would want $6-7M to sell the legal rights or the equivalent value in trade.
Proposals to exchange him for Bouldin or others of similar WR ability neglect the real value that the teams have when a draftee exceeds the normative worth of his rookie contract. This value isn't free... it is balanced by the risk the team takes when a player doesn't pan out, eg Hill or Bethel, both 2nd round picks.
Re: The economic value of Branch's contract to the Pats
It seems clear to me that Branch situation is much more about principal than cost or value of the contract.
The fact that Branch is trying to hold the Pats hostage, even though he's under contract, for a salary well above the market rate is what's at play here
In the long term Branch serves as an example to other signed players in that the Patriots will not have their bluff called - especially by players who are under contract asking for more than they are worth.
We may lose games in the short term by engaging in this game of chicken with Branch - but in the long term I think we avoid Branchesque holdouts by sending a clear message to other players in Branch's situation.
So this goes well beyond economic value - they have the cap space to give into his demands and always have - that's not the issue.
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