Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Aug 2006

FO on BSMW: Is Deion Branch Worth a Huge Contract?

More FO writing in a new place: Bill Barnwell will be writing a regular column analyzing the Patriots through the FO lens for Boston Sports Media Watch's "Patriots Game Day Rear View." (One of the interesting twists here is that while Bill lives in Boston, he's a Giants fan, not a Patriots fan.) The first column looks at Deion Branch and his historical comparables.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 17 Aug 2006

178 comments, Last at 21 Aug 2006, 11:31pm by Jason Mulgrew

Comments

1
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:06am

Branch has as much cuumulative DPAR and about the same career DVOA as Ashley Lelie does, in addition to having roughly comparable receptions and touchdowns, but fewer yards than Lelie. And that is with Tom Brady doing the throwing instead of Jake the Snake.

Is Lelie worth a huge new contract? The Broncos apparently thought so little of this possibility that they gave away a draft pick for a guy with only one good knee to replace Lelie.

2
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:33am

Excellent analysis.

I like Branch. I hope we re-sign him. But.

Agents wander into offices and say men like Branch are almost as good as the best receivers. They say Moss gets gazillion, I'm almost as good as Moss, where's my, um, Deon's gazillion minus a few pennies.

The agent never says: Hey, Moss isn't worth all that extra money to be a few ticks better than Branch, is he?

And so we get to sit, and wait, and wonder how far down the standoff hole everybody's willing to go,that helps no one except the agent, really, and the player, by accident, perhaps.

And maybe we'll get to see him play. Or maybe we'll get to see him go somewhere else and be someone elses' salary cap nightmare two years hence.

Hey look! Lawrence Maroney's good. The world turns. Indispensable players by the thousands sleep in graveyards.

3
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:34am

Re: They both went to a mid-major (Branch to Louisville, Ellard to Fresno State).

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I thought that in college football "mid-major" generally refers to I-AA schools, not I-A schools like the ones you mentioned.

4
by karl (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:42am

Re 3: I disagree, I think his use of the term is correct.

Re 1: That's not true. While A. Lelie's best year occured at the same time as Branch had his breakout/injury year, he's been worse than Branch in every other year. He was significantly worse last year - while Branch maintained the improved performance, Lelie regressed.

5
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:44am

Re: 2

The agent never says: Hey, Moss isn’t worth all that extra money to be a few ticks better than Branch, is he?

That's a horrible example. Moss when healthy has been much better than Branch, not "a few ticks" (unless you're talking about Santana).

6
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:47am

Re #3
In CFB, "mid-major" generally refers to those programs outside the BCS conferences that aren't terrible. Thus, Buffalo won't be a mid-major unless they start winning games, and Louisville isn't a mid-major because they're not part of the Big East, but Fresno State is still a mid-major. I-AA schools are referred to as I-AA schools, or "who cares, it's a I-AA school."

7
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:48am

#6
Just to clarify myself, Louisville WAS a mid-major, but they joined the Big East for football in 2005 and are thus no longer a mid-major.

8
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:54am

I googled it, and it looks like "mid-major" in football terms is used to describe teams from both the lesser I-A conferences and the lesser I-AA conferences. To the extent that it is used to describe I-A teams, its use seems to coincide with the advent of the BCS, so it is a relatively new term. I have been a major college football fan since I was a little kid, and I think this is the first time I have ever heard a I-A school described as a "mid-major." I consider "mid-major" to be a college basketball term with little meaning within college football.

9
by Derek (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:55am

Although Louisville is in the Big East conference now, they weren't when Branch played for the Cardinals.

10
by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:56am

Well, it's only wikipedia, but down at the bottom under "Football" it does say In college football the term "mid-major" denotes those Division I-A schools that do not play in the six BCS conferences. For whatever that's worth. That's also the definition I'm familiar with.

I'm curious if there's any way to show these various receivers' contribution to their teams DVOA that year, and whether that's meaningful. For instance, if the team as a whole was average, but the player had a +30% DVOA, does that mean something different than a player who was +30% on a team that was +50%? I realize the object is to isolate what can be isolated, but this might be something like the O-line/running back effect.

11
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:57am

Hey CA- You are right, sorta. The agent would say that Deion Branch was better than Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and free beer and naked women and potato chips combined, and ask for triple the money of all them combined.

I am not the agent.

12
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:27pm

So Rutgers, Cincy, SOUTH FREAKING FLORIDA, and U Freaking Conn are "major" college football programs by virtue of geography or basketball?

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this aspect of the college game?

13
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:28pm

Oh, by the way, at first glance I thought that I saw "FO on BDSM". Dominatrix DVOAs?

14
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:34pm

Re: 12

By the same logic, Duke and Vanderbilt are "major" college football programs.

Like #7, I've never heard the term "mid-major" used in college football. It's a college basketball term. Football usually uses "BCS-conference" and "non-BCS-conference."

15
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:35pm

Further to the Branch-Lelie comparison, it is my belief that one of the systematic flaws in DPAR/DVOA is a tendency to under-rate number one receivers and over-rate number twos. Lelie has only ever been a number two, while Branch is a number one.

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:36pm

Sippican, as a Minnesota alumnus, I'm rooting for Maroney to excel, so I was happy to see him drafted by a team with a coaching staff which is in possession of a clue. I also think he has a chance to be great, so it is good to hear a Pats follower say he has looked good.

17
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:36pm

Yes, Sophandros, there's something wrong there, but like many things in college football, there is what makes sense, and there is reality.

A "mid-major" has, at least for the past decade or so, typically been used to refer to any football school in Division 1-A not in a BCS conference.

I've never heard of a 1-AA school described as a mid-major, because they're nowhere near "mid". "Mid-major" means essentially "between major and minor" and 1-AA (and below) are minor, in the world of college football.

Also note that the NCAA no longer 'officially' has 1-A and 1-AA. This year the NCAA renamed them, essentially, "Division 1, Champion Decided by Playoff" (1-AA) and "Division 1, Champion Decided by Bowls" (1-A).

18
by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:37pm

That should be "like #8."

19
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:43pm

Re: 10

In college football the term “mid-major� denotes those Division I-A schools that do not play in the six BCS conferences.

Like Notre Dame...

20
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:51pm

Branch has as much cuumulative DPAR and about the same career DVOA as Ashley Lelie does, in addition to having roughly comparable receptions and touchdowns, but fewer yards than Lelie. And that is with Tom Brady doing the throwing instead of Jake the Snake.

Branch was injured in 2004. Prorating his DPAR to 16 games puts him a nice chunk of DPAR above Lelie.

In addition, most of Bill's argument isn't based on Branch's past performance. It's based on Branch's likely future performance based on his trends.

Lelie's trends don't look as promising as Branch's do: after that very good 3rd year, he went back to a very mediocre 4th year. Branch didn't.

21
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 12:52pm

In related news, the Patriots are playing Willie Andrews (rookie seventh-round DB) at wide receiver this week in practice.

22
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:10pm

A few quick comments:

- Maybe the Broncos are wrong about Lelie. You know, like Travis McGriff or Marcus Nash, or Deltha O'Neal. Not to say that the Broncos are horrible player evaluators or anything, but they're not the best in the NFL either. I don't think Lelie's as good as Branch, but I think they're in the same stratosphere. Post #20 also brings up some good points about the comparison.

- #10, you're right in that we can't isolate to that level. In addition, we only have DVOA data back to 1997 so, for this article at least, we would only be able to apply such methodology to Porter, Bruce, and Branch.

23
by vijay (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:15pm

The Cowboys and Patriots are doing a "Scout swap" this week. Do you think there could be something to a Branch trade to the Cowboys? With TO having a tweaked hamstring and Glenn always close to injured, having Branch gives them three "At one time number one" WRs on the team. Plus, after TO and Glenn, the depth on the Cowboys is very poor and somewhat banged up anyway. I don't really have much of an idea what the Cowboys have in return where they have some depth to deal from. But as a Cowboy fan, I have admired Branch from afar. And having and paying him mitigates any potential and probably impending TO meltdown.

24
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:23pm

Do you think there could be something to a Branch trade to the Cowboys?
No.

What could the Cowboys offer in trade, that the Patriots actually want?

25
by Vern (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:35pm

BTW, rumors in NE suggest that Branch has wanted to get to UFA all along and that this is not really his agent's doing. With Given's contract, this situation is much closer to when Ty Law saw the crazy money that Champ Bailey got, and rightly concluded the real way to cash in is timing the UFA market right. Of course, Law missed that market by a year or so (injury then the rule change) and CBs were not the same $ any more.

We'll see what happens with Branch, but give it a 50-50 that he holds out WELL into the season, or possibly gets traded.

26
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:53pm

Pat #20:

Lelie’s trends don’t look as promising as Branch’s do: after that very good 3rd year, he went back to a very mediocre 4th year. Branch didn’t.

Did Lelie regress, or did Plummer? Yes, DVOA and DPAR say Plummer himself was more efficient last year, but he accomplished that only while making Rod Smith more efficient as well. Everyone else in Denver was much less efficient - Lelie, Putzier, Johnson all went down, Anderson was worse than Droughns receiving from the backfield, and Bell was worse than Griffin.

Really, the reason Plummer was more efficient was he became better at playing catch with Rod Smith, and he didn't throw interceptions as much. Meanwhile, since Plummer wasn't throwing as much nor as many TD's, there was less value being passed around to everyone else on the Bronco's.

Its little nuances like that which make me suggest that we look at cuumulative DPAR and career DVOA, given the small sample sizes being worked with.

In the same light, did Branch really have a great year and a harbinger of things to come, or with the Patriots running game falling apart, and with David Patten departed, did Branch simply get more high value chances to create offensive success?

And if you pro-rate Branch's numbers for the 7 1/2 games he missed in 2004, don't you end up with him regressing slightly in 2005 as well?

27
by masocc (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:55pm

Just saw Aaron Schatz on ESPN, and...

I didn't know you were Chinese, Aaron! Sounds like they did a good job of dubbing you.

Oh, wait. Technical difficulties ;) Nevermind. Heh.

28
by underthebus (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 1:59pm

Anyone else find it refreshing when Brady backed his wide reciever? I know he backed off his comments a little later, but it was a nice gesture from a QB who already gets paid top dollar to actually support their teammate. Ya hear me McNabb and Favre?

29
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:06pm

And if you pro-rate Branch’s numbers for the 7 1/2 games he missed in 2004, don’t you end up with him regressing slightly in 2005 as well?

Not really. His regression from 2004 to 2005 is similar to the rest of the league's, due to the adjustment to the pass interference rules.

Top receiver DVOA in 2004: 41.7%
Top receiver DVOA in 2005: 32.0%

A loss of about 10% is about what Branch had (more like 15%). In Lelie's case it was more like 23%.

Besides, regressing from "5th in the league" to "13th in the league" is better than regressing from 18th in the league to 50th. If Branch keeps performing at his 2005 level, that's not so bad. If Lelie keeps performing at his 2005 level, that's, uh, not a #1 WR.

30
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:31pm

Regarding a Cowboys trade:

As much as Cowboys fans might like Branch, I agree that the Cowboys have little to offer the Patriots that BB would be interested in, unless they have a stud inside linebacker they're willing to offer up as a trade. Remember, Branch has almost no leverage, so he WILL play for the Pats this year (he has to or he doesn't acrue a season and become a free agent), and the Pats aren't going to give up their best reciever, and a pretty good one at that, just becase of a contract dispute unless they get something pretty good in return.

My thoughts of Branch are that he's definitely in the top 15, but not quite in the top 10 (or at least in the lower top 10), of young #1 WR's in the game. If he were a #2, he'd be one of the best. That is born out by DVOA and DPAR. Consequently, when I heard the deal the Pats had allegedly offered, I thought it was close to fair. A little on the low side, but a good starting point to negotiate from. Then I heard that Branch had asked for a contract comparable to Reggie Wayne. I thought "Hmmm, a #2/#3 WR, albeit on one of the best offensive teams out there. That seems fair". Then I actually looked up what Wayne got, and realized that he is now probably one of the most overpaid players in the league and that the Patriots would be crazy to throw that much money at Branch, especially given how much they pay Brady. It seems like they should meet in the middle, but from what I've heard, it's mainly Branch's agent's fault that they haven't. I don't know if he was acting on Branch's instructions, or if it was his idea, but he essentially told the Pats "Reggie Wayne's money is our first and final offer, pay it or Branch is a FA next year, and, oh, by they way, he's going to hold out until you guarantee not to franchise him next year". When the Pats said no (probably laughed him out of the office), he hasn't negotiated with them since. It really doesn't sound like he's negotiating in good faith, and I wish Branch would fire him and get an agent that will get a fair deal done. Something that will be cap-heavy this year to take advantage of the Pats extra space and compensate Branch for his probably underpaid status last year, and to give him a nice bonus like what ARE got, but be cap friendly later on in case Branch's injury-proneness rears its head. This hold out isn't helping anyone except maybe Branch's current agent.

Regardin Andrews: Apparently he was serving as a WR on the scout team one day, and was actually catching balls really well, so they said "why not"? That would be just like the Patriots--to draft a CB in the 7th round primarily as a kick returner and special teamer, and then to discover that he makes a pretty fair WR...

31
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:50pm

How were these scores arrived at. I do not think of Branch as being that similar to Ellard.
Catch wise maybe, but Ellard had a much higher average.

32
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:53pm

Re: 28

If you remember, last year McNabb came out heavily in favor of giving Brian Westbrook a new contract. Just because he didn't support an asshole of a teammate doesn't mean that he doesn't support any of his teammates.

33
by Andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 2:56pm

Re 28 and 32:

If you remember, McNabb was instrumental in lobbying to get Owens on the team with a $49M contract to begin with.

Last I checked, $7M per year wasn't a bad salary for a wideout on the declining end of his career.

After TO turned on him, why should McNabb have gone to bat again for him to get him more money?

34
by Andy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:05pm

Hey Pats fans, check this out:

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/5879838

35
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:17pm

> "BTW, rumors in NE suggest that Branch has wanted to get to UFA all along and that this is not really his agent’s doing... We’ll see what happens with Branch, but give it a 50-50 that he holds out WELL into the season, or possibly gets traded."

Agreed on both counts. In almost all cases, I think it's simply wrong to play the "blame the agent" game. As with an attorney, the agent works for the player and not the other way around. And if the player is just ignorant and easily mislead (not the case with Branch imo), the player is responsible for that situation oo. As far as I'm concerned, if the agent takes a position, it's identical to the player taking that position. For that reason in reports I don't even like hearing about what an "agent" is demanding, etc.

In another string I brought up the possibility that it's not necessarily even a bad business proposition for Branch to hold out until November if it ultimately results in him becoming a UFA in 2007. And since I'm still of the opinion that based on his true ability and worth that the Patriots are squeezing Branch more than the other way around, that's not an indefensible position, nor will other teams hold it against him (and let's face it, if someone like TO doesn't pay much of a longterm penalty for his antics, Branch shouldn't or wouldn't either).

36
by Boston Dan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:31pm

The chances of Deion holding out during the regular season are less than 1%.

He hasn't made that much dough from his contract and endorsements. How can he afford not to get paid the regular season checks (players receive a lot less during training camp, a lot less)

And if he sits out games until week 10 (the last possible week to return and still earn a year of service time), he'll end up owing the Pats money.

What if he sits out 2 weeks, comes back and gets hurt, than misses the rest of the season? Does he really that think that GMs will be lining up with top 5 receiver money and a fat signing bonus?

37
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:44pm

> What if he sits out 2 weeks, comes back and gets hurt, than misses the rest of the season? Does he really that think that GMs will be lining up with top 5 receiver money and a fat signing bonus?

That would be an argument for holding out, not the other way around. Returning at any point in the season (and granted, he'd have to return after 10 weeks, but I'm not sure the Pats would play him at that point) and getting hurt would result in Branch collecting only $1m in salary and then being at the mercy of the market for an injured player. That could cost him millions.

I still think it's unlikely that Branch will hold out for good, but I do think it's more than a remote possibility (only he and his agent know for sure). We're already to the point where the situation is downright ugly. If it were just a simple philosophical ploy, he'd have been back in camp by now, similar to what Hines Ward did last year with the Steelers. As in, hey, we both agree that I deserve an extension and pay raise, but I need to protect myself too, so I'll return after a week simply as a show of good faith towards future negotiations.

38
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:53pm

Re #22: Maybe the Broncos are wrong about Lelie. You know, like Travis McGriff or Marcus Nash, or Deltha O’Neal. Not to say that the Broncos are horrible player evaluators or anything, but they’re not the best in the NFL either. I don’t think Lelie’s as good as Branch, but I think they’re in the same stratosphere. Post #20 also brings up some good points about the comparison.
The Broncos definitely think that Lelie is in the Branch stratosphere, which is why they won't trade him for less than a 1st or 2nd round pick, or a "front-line starter". I don't know if they'd be willing to give him a big contract, but it's irrelevant- Lelie is holding out because Denver won't hand the #1 job to him on a silver platter. I suspect Denver would love to keep him around as the #2 guy behind J-Walk, but Lelie's not giving them the chance.

Also, I definitely think that the Broncos are one of the top-10 evaluators of talent in the NFL. Generally, the more talented team wins... and very very few teams win more than Denver does. For all the jokes about Shanny as a GM, go look at his draft record over the past 5 years and compare it to anyone else's in the league. Their top 2 picks for the last four seasons have been Darrent Williams, Domanique Foxworth, D.J. Williams, Tatum Bell, George Foster, Terry Pierce (bust), Ashley Lelie, and Clinton Portis. That's RIDICULOUSLY solid- especially for a team that until this year hadn't picked higher than 15th in Shanahan's career.

In 2001, they drafted Middlebrooks (bust) and Toviessi (career-ending injury), but followed with Reggie Hayward and Ben Hamilton. In 2000, they drafted Deltha O'Neal, but followed with Ian Gold and Kenoy Kennedy. 1999 was the Al Wilson draft, 1998 was a total bust, and then 1997 netted Trevor Pryce and Dan Neil with their top 2 picks.

When you consider that 50% of all high draft picks (first two rounds) bust, I'd call Shanny's draft history "remarkable", and say that Denver's possibly got the best talent evaluation in the entire NFL.

Back on topic, I have to say, in my mind, it's ludicrous that New England isn't paying Branch what he wants. I mean, what the hell else are they going to spend all that cap money on? Come on, New England! Are you going to try to rival the Florida Marlins for the cheapest team to ever win a championship?

39
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:59pm

#23 and #24, what's a scout swap and please, oh please, Jerry Jones, come to your senses and send Mr. Owens to New England. Pay his salary if you have to.

Just one Indy fan's opinion.

40
by sippican (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 3:59pm

will allen#16

I watched the reruns of preseason game. I'd never seen Maroney run in college. He looked great.

The pats aren't in the situation where they have to throw the guy to the wolves right away. Dillon looked himself again, Faulk is about the same, and some guy I never heard of named Cobbs was running all over the place.

Ideally, a guy like Maroney doesn't sit, or play all the downs as a rookie. he'll play but not too much I think.

WR is a worry, but I can't see any way but Branch whines a bit and then signs. The pats could throw three tights on the field and run all over everybody right now. I've never seen a pats team that could do that. The continuity at O line coaching is vastly overlooked in the league. Shanahan and Belichick have it, despite the defections by other coaches.

The east is weak. The pats can romp. Then playoffs look daunting, without wide receivers.

41
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 4:07pm

Andy (#34 )--
"I had only one brief conversation with Tom Brady regarding a potential future workout," Anderson [Barry Bonds' personal trainer] reportedly said in the statement to prosecutors that was included in court documents unsealed on Wednesday in San Francisco. "I never had another phone conversation with him and never discussed it with anyone."
It's all about context. There's nothing to this, other than the names of the parties involved.

42
by Andy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 4:15pm

Starshatterer, I know it is most likely nothing. But, hey, you never know with these things. I always wondered where Brady's armstrength magically came from.

43
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 4:16pm

#38 - I didn't mean to imply that I thought they weren't good - I had them towards the bottom half of the top ten in my head when I was considering it.

#31 - They're created by comparing the statistical profile of a player to those of all other wide receivers, and then determining a score based upon how close they are to the particular player's profile. For a description of the methodology, see this article by MDS.

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 4:21pm

Or here, which is the version I think you actually use.

45
by Derek (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:10pm

Travis,

Mid-major is definitely used for college football teams.

Here is an example of the phrase being used by Stewart Mandel to describe Louisville's head coach in 2004: "The Gators may feel [Bobby] Petrino is the better fit. In many ways he's a carbon copy of [Urban] Meyer, having turned a mid-major school into a nationally competitive powerhouse with a dynamic offensive system that could do wonders with Chris Leak and the rest of Florida's returning personnel."

On the Maroney front, he was a dominant back in college. To me, he stood out even among all the great backs for the Golden Gophers.

46
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:29pm

Glenn W. @ 35

As with an attorney, the agent works for the player and not the other way around. And if the player is just ignorant and easily mislead the player is responsible for that situation. As far as I’m concerned, if the agent takes a position, it’s identical to the player taking that position. For that reason in reports I don’t even like hearing about what an “agent� is demanding, etc.

The fundamental flaw at work is that agents get paid upon the signing of a new contract. In situations like this one, and with every Poston client, the question becomes is the agent looking out for his client's best interest, or his own. In Branch's case, his agent should have advised him to sign the Patriots offer, or maybe negotiate one slightly better, if he was acting in Branch's best interest. The contract called for him to be paid as the 13th highest WR in football...not unrealistic. It also would have made him a UFA in 2009, when the salary cap is projected to be as much as 25% higher than now and Deion will still be on the friendly side of 30.

Chayut is looking out for his own best interest in this example, both from a financial payday situation, and he seems to want the label of a hard-ass negotiator to better help attract clients.

A lot of this could be solved if agents were paid a flat fee every year from each client, regardless of contract size.

47
by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:35pm

Forgive the rehash, but I posted this on a previous thread 10 days ago and it's still relevent. Please pay extra special attention to the quotes from Branch back in April, 4 short months ago:

In a good piece a few days ago in the Herald columnist Steve Buckley recalls Deion’s quote about his contract from last April:

“My job is to finish my contract regardless of whether I get an extension or not,� he said. “Coach Belichick has given me every opportunity to excel here. This is where I want to be, and I’m pretty sure things will work out for me and for us as a unit.�
In that same interview, Branch also said, “As far as getting it done now, that’s the part I don’t know. I’ve got a year to go yet.�

There’s absolutely no question that Branch’s agent is killing him with this confrontational crap, which has been well-documented precisely because agent Chayut can’t resist opening his yap to sympathetic scribes like Ron Borges and John Tomase. His path to trying to get the $$$$ has been diametrically opposed to the strategy that Seymour’s agent used last year when he shut his mouth and said nothing. This is the lesson that Pats management would like to teach: You want your money, fine, lets talk - privately. Chayut is trying to back Belichick/Pioli into a corner, totally underestimating that this move has forced the Pats - unlike perhaps other teams in similar positions - to tell Chayut to shove off.

48
by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:39pm

In another note, the scout swap most probably has nothing to do with Branch. The Cowboys have extra linebackers - the Pats do not. The Pats have extra tackles - the Cowboys do not. Boston media speculates that such a potential deal among second-tier players is why the scouts have been allowed to attend each others' practices.

49
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:45pm

> A lot of this could be solved if agents were paid a flat fee every year from each client, regardless of contract size.

I don't disagree that agents may be overpaid, but if they were simply paid a flat fee (ostensibly commensurate with a minimum contract) and as you suggest are fundamentally dishonest in working for themselves and not their clients, then they'd have zero incentive to negotiate and full incentive to simply sign up players and churn out contracts.

At least in this case, with Branch currently making only $1m for this season, his interests and the agent's interests align. Now, the agent may indeed be of the hardline ilk, but if Branch isn't getting paid, the agent isn't getting paid either. The agent may be more able to absorb the risk, but I seriously doubt that Branch doesn't understand the stakes here and is having the wool pulled over his eyes. I think the focus on the agent with Branch as some kind of unwitting victim (who will be forgiven when he signs, because it wasn't his fault, after all) is unfounded.

50
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:47pm

You would think that after what happened in Philly last year, players and agents would realize that well managed teams with strong front-offices aren't going to be bullied anymore. And if Branch actually believes that he'll be able to sit out a year like he-who-shall-not-be-named and then find and idiot of an owner to give him the payday he wants, he's sadly mistaken. He's a very good WR, but his talent isn't anywhere near high enough to outweigh something like this.

51
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:55pm

Players say accomodating things all the time when trying to look good to the public during early negotiations, before push comes to shove. That's PR. Johnny Damon said he'd never play for the Yankees. Anyone who actually believed that (or even seriously held him to the statement) is seriously naive.

> Chayut is trying to back Belichick/Pioli into a corner, totally underestimating that this move has forced the Pats - unlike perhaps other teams in similar positions - to tell Chayut to shove off.

What do you mean by "force"? Meaning that if they'd negotiated in a more acceptable fashion (and frankly, I'm not seeing much "confrontation" in the papers from Branch or Chayut, certainly no more than the usual), the Patriots might have been willing to make a better counter-offer? If that's the case and it's about pride and therefore Branch must now be punished, well, that's just foolish and not in the team's best interests.

52
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:55pm

So Rutgers, Cincy, SOUTH FREAKING FLORIDA, and U Freaking Conn are “major� college football programs by virtue of geography or basketball?

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this aspect of the college game?

I don't. It's an incorrect label at worst.

FWIW, 25 years ago the Miami Hurricanes were about where UConn and South Freakin' Florida are now. Both UConn and USF are new to 1-A, but have a lot of potential.

Louisville has always had a more prestigious football program than Fresno State, even when Louisville was an independent or in CUSA.

53
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 5:57pm

I don't completely agree with that, Glenn. While it's true that, as it stands now, the interests of the agents and players are aligned I wouldn't necessarily say that going to a flat-fee system would reverse that. Simply for the fact that if an agent just started churning out contracts without putting much effort into getting the best deal possible, that agent's client pool would simply dry up.

And it’s completely unrealistic to suggest that the agent's cut should be relative to the minimum contract. If a flat-fee system was ever enacted, there'd have to be some sort of compensation tier system. That's slightly more realistic (although I'm not sure it's entirely legal to set something like this up).

54
by dryheat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:01pm

And it’s completely unrealistic to suggest that the agent’s cut should be relative to the minimum contract. If a flat-fee system was ever enacted, there’d have to be some sort of compensation tier system. That’s slightly more realistic (although I’m not sure it’s entirely legal to set something like this up).

That's what I had in mind, maybe four tiers. And hey, it's gotta be as legal as limiting the agents to a 3% percentage. The NFLPA could make it happen.

55
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:03pm

Re: 51

Yes it is in the team's best interest. Managing the cap has as much, if not more, to do with the team's interest as anything else. By taking a hard stance with a player demanding a new contract that the team feels in unreasonable they're sending a message to every other player thinking about doing the same thing.

What do you think the odds are that one of Philly's soon-to-be free agents threatens to hold out indefinately? I'd guess it's not very good. And forcing players to double-think extended holdouts is most certainly in the team's best interest.

Now, on the other hand, if this is all just smoke and no fire from Branch, and he shows up to camp in the very near future, that's a totally different story.

56
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:09pm

52: No, the Miami Hurricanes were NOT at the same level as UConn or South Freakin' Florida 25 years ago. They were playing at the highest possible division since 1946, and had a program since 1927. USF has played football since 1997. Connecticutt has played at the highest classification since 2000. Neither of those schools has earned jack shit on the 1-A level, and for them to have automatic access to BCS $$$ and the exposure of a BCS bowl is laughable, at best.

57
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:14pm

> Simply for the fact that if an agent just started churning out contracts without putting much effort into getting the best deal possible, that agent’s client pool would simply dry up.

True enough-- my example was in the extreme (as with the flat fee). But if I'm the hardest-working, smartest and best at what I do, I deserve to sell my services and be compensated as such. That's the American way. Even if I'm a slimy reptilian sports agent.

We're getting off the beaten path here though. I still don't agree that the agent in this case is way out of line, and especially that Deion Branch has somehow been suckered here. Just as a Reggie Wayne-level contract may be unreasonable, so is a $4m guarantee (half of what Givens and Randle El got) in a backloaded contract. That "13th highest paid WR" claim came from the Patriots and considered only full contract value without consideration of guarantees-- and Branch and his agent disputed the ranking. Personally, I think the Patriots are choosing to ignore the market shift from the $15m salary cap increase (not so coincidentally the approximate team cap space) and are saying, well, the market didn't change for us, take it or leave it. Which is their right but it may end up costing them on the field. Split the difference and pay the guy-- just my opinion here, but I think Branch would take that, but the Patriots won't offer it.

58
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:17pm

I have no problem with players playing hardball to get what they deserve. I also have no problem with saying that Branch was underpaid last year and would be if he played this year under his current contract. I think he deserves a fat contract that uses up some of that cap space the Pats have lying around, and I suspect that that is exactly WHY they're keeping some of it lying around--the Pats would love to sign Branch to a few more years at money commensurate to his ability. I understand why he would be disgruntled, and I would expect him to either negotiate for all he is worth and then a little more, and if he doesn't get it, to walk out the door after this season (unless he gets franchised).

My problem is with Branch (or his agent, depending on whether you take GlennW or Glenn's interpretation of the relationship) using such hardball tactics in THIS case. That's because Branch essentially has no leverage. If he doesn't play this season, he doesn't accrue a year and doesn't become a FA. I disagree with GlennW when he said that coming in in mid-season would be best for Branch because he limits his chance of injury. If he does come in mid-season, he's going to be out of game shape and more prone to injury. He's also going to be out of sync with the rest of the offense, and his numbers will suffer. Look how Bruschi's game suffered last season when he missed training camp and half the season. So if Branch doesn't play, he's still under contract. If he holds out half the season, then he's probably going to put us lousy numbers, even if he doesn't get injured, and other GM's will get scared that he's regressing, and also probably consider him to be a "problem case" or "poor team player" who is likely to hold out again (I don't think Branch is one, but that's how it will look). And if against such odds he does put up spectacular numbers, the Pats will franchise him, especially if they think Jackson is only a year away from being a #1, and he'll have to risk another season of injury before becoming a FA.

On the other hand, if he would negotiate, he could probably get the Pats initial offer quite a bit higher and address any concerns he would have. As others have pointed out, their initial offer was decent and he almost surely could have talked it up. But I don't think playing hardball--i.e. walking in and demanding with a first and final offer an obscene amount of money and refusing to discuss anything else, then holding out to try to force them to not franchise him--is a good idea in his situation.

I don't think Branch is stupid, or selfish, which is why I wonder what his agent has been telling him. I don't think it's realistic for him to expect Reggie Wayne money from the Pats (the Colts get away with it because they put all their money on offense and use a cheap, fast, young defense, but the Pats put a lot more money on defense, using more complex schemes that require more expensive veterans). And if he holds out for half the season, there's no way he's going to command Reggie Wayne money next year on the open market. I just think his holdout, combined with the refusal to negotiate, is bad for both the Pats and Branch, and all it does is let his agent brag that he can play "hardball".

59
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:20pm

Agree with everything you just said, Glenn. My biggest problem with the whole situation (as an outside observer and Philly fan who barely lived through last season) is with the public nature of Branch's demands.

So you don't think you're getting what you deserve? Fine. Shut up. Show up. And go somewhere else next year. That's the way contracts are supposed to work, and if you don't like it I'm sure there's a cubicle out there somewhere that would be happy for you to call it home.

60
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:20pm

You would think that after what happened in Philly last year, players and agents would realize that well managed teams with strong front-offices aren’t going to be bullied anymore.

Wow. I came away with the exact opposite realization from the Eagles / TO war.

I love it how with some fans the teams are *always* the good guys, and the players are *always* bad guys and "bullies".

61
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:21pm

> Yes it is in the team’s best interest. Managing the cap has as much, if not more, to do with the team’s interest as anything else.

It is certainly not in the team's best interests to sit on $13m in current cap space with no realistic way of using all of that money in the absence of signing Branch. The team may prove a point for the future, but it's the rare exception amongst players not to look for market value (as Branch is) anyway. So to me, the "setting an example" thing is futile. Players will just leave as they have in the past. The only remaining question with Branch is whether he is the usual case of the past, or something more special. I lean towards the latter which is the basis for my position.

62
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:22pm

GlennW,

My take, from what I've read, is that it's Branch's agent who isn't offering or talking. The Pats want to negotiate--it's not a matter of "the Patriots won't offer it", but rather "Branch and his agent won't accept any offers less than their initial position".

I do wonder why the Pats offer was so "backloaded"--I don't think that's a fair characterization from what I heard--it seemed neither "backloaded" nor "frontloaded"--but I do wonder why they're not using up the extra cap space this year, both with Branch's offer and Seymour's deal. It makes you wonder if they know something about the CBA and if it might get changed next year.

Incidentally, you can't compare to Givens and Randel El. (A) Both were grossly overpaid my opinion (and a lot of folks agree with me), and (B) both were free agents and hence commanded bidding wars. Of course a FA gets more money than a player negotiating an extension (the risk is that one might get injured while waiting for FA).

63
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:28pm

> Fine. Shut up. Show up. And go somewhere else next year.

But Branch can't; he'll be franchised. He's effectively been told he'll be franchised indefinitely if the parties can't come to terms. He's offered to come back if he won't be franchised (same deal as Shawn Alexander received). No way. Unfortunately Branch is the somewhat unusual position where he signed a fairly long deal (5 years) at low money as determined by draft status, which means that the Patriots can lock him up for 6+ years on their terms with no guarantees to the player. Branch is screwed on leverage (he's only got the holdout option) and that's at least half the problem.

64
by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:33pm

Like night follows day, a response from my doppelganger GlennW.

Damon's statement was made long before his free agency, not a few weeks. There is no analogy here. Players do say accomodating things, but when mini-camp is 2 months off, those statements made in April can come back to bite one real quick. Now, if Deion were an asshole, he wouldnt care; I'm going on the assumption that he is not, and that his statements were genuine. It's all we have to go by here - 2 months before mini-camp, he said he would worry about the renegotiations in another year and it was his job to report to camp!! If he was indeed thinking about holding out, there's plenty of other ways he could have made his comments. If its being naive to believe the words of a seemingly stand-up guy like Deion in this case, well, I'm glad I'm not that cynical.

By "force", I mean making public statements that back people into public corners. Rule 101 in negotiation is to allow the other side to save face in the process to allow each side to proclaim a fair compromise. In the last couple weeks, Chayut has indeed not said anything, which I'll take as a good sign; his public carping at the start of camp, though, was loud and confrontational. As for the Pats being "willing to make a better counter-offer", they didn't have a chance to! Silver's article in SI noted that the Pats offer was not a huge one, but also not a bad one. It was a place to begin negotiation, but Chayut rejected it out of hand. From Silver's article: The Patriots expected Branch's agent to make a counter offer and that negotiations would bridge the gap. Instead, Chayut rejected the deal outright and asked, as he had since March, that the team agree not to place a franchise tag on the wideout after '06. The Patriots refused, believing, in the words of one executive, that such a move would set a "horrible precedent." It's not just about "pride", it's about keeping negotiations for all players private. Pats management never takes these things public, and Chayut's doing so set a precedent that would embolden other agents dealing with the Pats in the future. That's in the team's best interests.

65
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:35pm

> Incidentally, you can’t compare to Givens and Randel El. (A) Both were grossly overpaid my opinion (and a lot of folks agree with me),

I agree with that assessment too. But the point is that to some degree those WRs set the market for future free agents, and a much better WR even if not a UFA is not likely to accept half the guaranteed money and a comparable contract in total value. In other words, it's not just that a couple teams got crazy over these two players (well, they did, a little) but that the increased cap really did move the market. It's no longer realistic to compare offers with those that top WRs received in 2002-2003.

66
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:38pm

Re: 60

Just because Jerry Jones is a blithering idiot doesn't mean that Owens "won". He's clearly the most talented WR in the league. At this point it's almost not even an argument. That is the only reason he got anywhere near the money he's getting now. Do you actually believe that if it had been anyone else that pulled what he did last year, that they would've fallen into the same kind of money that Owens did?!? The point the Eagles made still stands. They're not going to put up with assholes like him ruining the season. And if anyone else thinks they can afford to sit out a season, go right ahead.

The reason people side with the team and not the player is that we're fans of the team. Presumably, any franchise that isn't deliberately being cheap just to make money is going to be acting in the best interest of the team. A player demanding more money regardless of the detriment to the team is (especially when he's only one freaking year into a very fair contract) doesn't deserve the support of the fan base.

67
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:39pm

So you don’t think you’re getting what you deserve? Fine. Shut up. Show up.

He has another option: sit out.

If I don't get what I think I deserve at work, I find another job. Too bad Deion Branch can't do that.

And go somewhere else next year.

Unless the team uses the franchise tag on him.

That’s the way contracts are supposed to work

What the Patriots are doing is well within their rights, but what Branch is doing is within his rights as well.

and if you don’t like it I’m sure there’s a cubicle out there somewhere that would be happy for you to call it home.

That's essentially what Branch is doing, so I don't see why you have a problem with it.

68
by MTR (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:42pm

I think the Pats understand something few teams do. It used to be that the worst thing a front office could do was lose a good player. Now, with the salary cap, the worse thing you can do is overpay a player. Nobody's bad if he's cheap enough and nobody's good if he's too expensive.

69
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:48pm

Comparing sports careers to normal jobs is assinine. I doubt you signed a contract with your current employer. And if you did, then you can't just go out and find another job. And on top of that, I highly doubt that your current employer has an enormous fan base or that you specifically are paid to benefit those people.

Players sitting out is essentially telling the fans to go screw. It's saying that they don't give a rat's ass about them. The only thing that's important is the paycheck. That's why I have a problem with it.

70
by ABW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:53pm

Re: 60

Frankly, I don't see what's so unreasonable about expecting players to follow the framework set out in the CBA. If the players don't like being underpaid while still under their rookie contract, fine - call up Gene Upshaw and tell him to get better or shorter rookie contracts in the next CBA. If you don't want to be franchised, fine - you have the power of collective bargaining, use it to get rid of the franchise tags. The players don't like playing for non-guaranteed contracts - well, I think you'd probably have a work stoppage over that one, but this is what unions are for.

If the players want to change the rules of employment in the NFL, they can. They haven't - in fact, what they bargained for was for was a bigger piece of total revenues, and they got it. Now they should live with the fact that they have long, underpaid rookie contracts and can get franchised. Yeah, Branch himself has no leverage except a holdout, but the players as a whole had plenty of leverage last year, and they chose not to use it to solve the exact problems that are keeping Branch out of camp right now.

71
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:53pm

Seriously, what are these "confrontational" public statements that Chayut has made? (I mean, I've never seen the guy on TV, his picture in the paper, nothing-- we're not talking Drew Rosenhaus here.) Are we talking about that one Ronnie Borges column from about a month ago, or at least the agent's sentiments expressed therein? Borges was largely sympathetic to Branch (no surprise there) but for every point that the agent made, the team's position including WR pay rankings was offered in response. I don't know if Borges invented or extrapolated the information from the team's side, but I didn't think the piece totally one-sided, where the agent was allowed to rant verbatim. Branch's stance and action is certainly hardline but I haven't seen this public posturing stuff. Not that that matters so much as you guys feel (imo), because really, the holdout speaks for itself with no additional explanation necessary.

72
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 6:56pm

Just because Jerry Jones is a blithering idiot doesn’t mean that Owens “won�.

How is Jones an idiot for getting a player that you yourself labeled as "clearly the most talented WR in the league"?

Owens got his money and the Eagles got nothing. Owens won.

I can't emphasize this enough: going the macho man "we won't budge an inch" route isn't always the best, and that applies to running a football team as well as many other facets of life. The Eagles stand against Terrell Owens- and it's subsequent fallout- validates that.

From all reports, the Eagles could have satisfied Owens and Rosenhaus by guaranteeing one of his pre-season bonuses. He didn't want "more" money, just more security.

Remember, teams re-negotiate contracts to lower a player's salary ALL OF THE TIME.

73
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:03pm

Players sitting out is essentially telling the fans to go screw. It’s saying that they don’t give a rat’s ass about them. The only thing that’s important is the paycheck. That’s why I have a problem with it.

That's an argument ridiculous enough for sports radio. Seriously, such words should never be printed by an adult.

In all seriousness, aren't the Patriots also telling their fans to "screw" by not being flexible enough to get their best WR into camp?

74
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:07pm

> Players sitting out is essentially telling the fans to go screw. It’s saying that they don’t give a rat’s ass about them. The only thing that’s important is the paycheck. That’s why I have a problem with it.

Well, there's no arguing with that. Doesn't matter what the offer is, you might as well play for free; it's a privilege. And before we go down the TO path again, no, Deion Branch is NOT already set for life-- far from it.

Re. the CBA rules. They just happened to change to cover this scenario; mandatory 5-year contracts for 2nd-round draft picks are no longer permitted specifically because of situations like Branch's-- but too late for him. And Branch was originally set to sign a standard 4-year deal before the Pats got a look at him in minicamp and forced the 5-year requirement on him. This is one of the things that Branch's big bad agent went public with. But the truth is the truth (and I'm not saying I know the exact truth), and fair is fair, and I don't necessarily think Branch is getting the fair shake considering all these details.

75
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:11pm

I agree with ABW regarding the CBA. And incidentally, there's nothing that says contracts have to be non-gauranteed. A player is free to negotiate a guaratneed contract if he wishes, a la MLB. However, he has to understand that teams are probably willing to offer significantly less money in a guaranteed contract, or else go with a different player. In other words, guaranteeing the contract has some associated value, and the cost of gauranteeing contracts at their current value is higher than the market will bear--players in general are willing to play for non-guaranteed contracts, thus it is difficult for one player to get a gauranteed contract unless the money involved is relatively modest.

For the record, I'm not on the Patriot's "side". I think Branch was and would be underpaid under his rookie contract, and that he was not smart to sign such a long rookie deal, and that maybe the Patriots apply undue pressure to their rookies to sign long deals (although them doing so is understandable from their point of view). It did piss players off, and that's why the new CBA prevents that. I support Branch fighting for every penny he can get. Ideally, I would like to see the Patriots give it to him and keep him around, because I like Branch, as long as it's not so much that it would set a horrible precedent and bankrupt the team in the future. However, what I don't like is the fact that they're not negotiating.

76
by Tracy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:25pm

Everybody keeps saying that Branch has no leverage. But I think that his best leverage is the threat to play the season under his current deal. Then the choice is: "pay him Reggie Wayne money now, or risk losing him next year." Because if he reaches Free Agency, he'll find somebody to give him more than he's aksing for from the Pats, and if he's franchised, he'll get a top 5 receiver salary and go to free agency the following year.

I know that the players don't like the lack of security that comes with one-year deals with no signing bonuses, so that's the Patriots' real leverage. But I don't think that they want to franchise Branch, for the simple reason that doing so requires them to pay a top 5 receiver's salary for a receiver that do date has not been a top 5 receiver.

77
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:29pm

MJK, that last paragraph is almost exactly where I stand. On justifiable principle, this negotiation/holdout is at the very least split down the middle. And accordingly, the result could go either way, right now and into the future. I do sincerely believe though that the best of Deion Branch is yet to come.

78
by pyridoxal (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:29pm

The Patriots will spend to the cap regardless of Branch signing or not. Extending Graham, Koppen, re-working Seymour's new contract, etc lots of ways to spend money wisely. This doesn't include signing someone cut prior to the season. These scenarioes apparently need to be re-told in every Mike Reiss mailbag. Anyway the Patriots are NOT the Florida Marlins, they spend to the cap every year. Their apparent philosophy is a fat middle class is better than a few elite players with dregs and rookies filling the rest of the roster space.

79
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:31pm

Frankly, I don’t see what’s so unreasonable about expecting players to follow the framework set out in the CBA.

Branch holding out is well within his rights as outlined in the CBA.

I acknowledge that the Patriots have the right to refuse to give Branch a raise and an extension. They have the right to franchise him after the seaosn.

But there's nothing in the CBA that says that Branch has to make it easy for them.

80
by GlennW (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:53pm

> Extending Graham, Koppen, re-working Seymour’s new contract, etc lots of ways to spend money wisely. This doesn’t include signing someone cut prior to the season. These scenarioes apparently need to be re-told in every Mike Reiss mailbag.

Maybe Reiss needs to keep re-visiting these scenarios until they actually happen. The Seymour extension is done, and the 2006 bonus hit already defined. Are the Patriots even negotiating with Graham and Koppen? Are these things going to happen during the season (which would totally go against precedent)? And it won't be easy to spend $10m+ on castoffs and injury replacements; in the past $3-4m was enough to for this purpose. Past history is fine, but the Patriots have never been this far over the cap this close to the start of the season, so I think the question is at least a reasonable one.

81
by Martin Muldoon (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 7:59pm

THIS JUST IN FROM SAN DIEGO!!!

Junior Seau to unretire and join the Pats to aid their weakened LB corps.

82
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 8:24pm

I figured the Patriots were saving ~4-6 Million to get something done with Branch, 3-4 Million for additional signings, and then use the rest to try to extend some of the other players. If Branch's deal was done, had been done weeks ago, maybe they would be negotiating extensions with other players.

On the other hand, maybe there's something we don't know. Maybe the owners secretly agreed to renegotiate the CBA after this year, so it's dangerous to give large contracts out just now with big cap hits down the road.

83
by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 8:39pm

Philly won? This is the same team that finished 6-10 last year?

Philidelphia wanted to make a point instead of reaching a compromise like professionals. They got what they deserved. And they will suck this year too. There are divisions in that locker room and a lingering resentment towards management. At the first loss those cracks will start to come apart. They went from Super Bowl contender to division bottom dweller all to prove a point. And they proved it quite clearly.

The patriots are barking up the same tree. They thought they were being so clever in using their leverage to force draft picks to sign unreasonably long contracts. Now they can start wiping that smirk from their face. Branch was screwed by his contract. It is completely obvious to any fair observer. He wants what he deserves. It is totally the Patriots fault this is a public issue. He is their number one receiver and Brady's favorite target. His numbers in the Belicheck system, if anything, are undervalued compared to the effect he has on the game. The Patriots have been trying to be too smart with their money. Making your players feel undervalued and cheated is a long term losing strategy. Some teams, I note, either pay a player or let him go and play for someone else, but make the decision quickly and don't let the situation devolve into these everyone loses situations. Sucess can mask a lot of problems. Everyone's a genius when you've won three super bowls. But are they really as smart as they think they are?

84
by GKelly (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 9:45pm

Branch holding out is well within his rights as outlined in the CBA.The old version and the amendments to the new CBA are available at the NFLPA website. There is no provision givin a player the right to holdout. There ia a provision that sets the disciplinary parameters that teams can use on players under certain circumstances like criminal acts or acts detrmental to the team (failing to report to camp or games being one of these). Giving the club an ability to discipline a player who holdsout, is not the same thing as giving the player the right to holdout. Branch is in violation of his contract and the only thing the CBA does is set the guidleines for the punitive measures the team can take in this and similar situations.

85
by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 10:30pm

From a Borges column 7/23:
``We can debate his value to the team," [Branch agent] Chayut said. ``What can't be debated is how he was exploited. They've gotten away with lowballing players for a long time and it's starting to bite them in the [rear]. [Richard] Seymour held out. Others are leaving. Deion is not happy. That's why the league and the union changed the rules. To protect young players like Deion. He won't be exploited again."

Confrontational enough? Agree with Chayut's sentiments or not, and I know there are FO readers who do, but that's clearly lobbing a live volley in the direction of Belichick and Pioli.

86
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 10:32pm

GlennW (#80 )--
The Seymour extension is done, and the 2006 bonus hit already defined.
That's not entirely correct. Roughly $6 million of Seymour's $2007 bonus can be moved into 2006, after the anniversary of last year's please-come-back-to-camp bonus.

87
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 10:47pm

morganja (#83 )--

Hate much?
It is totally the Patriots fault this is a public issue.
It may be the Patriots' fault it's an issue (though I'dsay no more than halfway), but the public nature of it is entirely due to the actions of Branch's agent.
Sucess can mask a lot of problems. Everyone’s a genius when you’ve won three super bowls. But are they really as smart as they think they are?
Three Lombardis do weigh a lot in the balance. What have you got on the other side?

Here's the Patriot system in a nutshell: Tom Brady was undervalued. He negotiated quietly. They paid him big money.

Richard Seymour felt he was undervalued. He held out. Quietly. He's a much wealthier man, now.

Lawyer Milloy and Ty Law felt they were undervalued. They went public. They've already been released by the new teams that offered them more.

The system has worked. Three titles in six years with Belichick and Pioli at the helm. I'll be smirking 'til 2016, baby. Unless they win some more -- and it's like playing with house money at this point.

You're a Carolina fan, right? How's that system been doing lately? Superbowl loss, NFC championship loss, missed the playoffs in between when the entire offense (Steve Smith) got injured.

Your team's doing worse than the Eagles you malign.

88
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:11pm

Giving the club an ability to discipline a player who holdsout, is not the same thing as giving the player the right to holdout. Branch is in violation of his contract and the only thing the CBA does is set the guidleines for the punitive measures the team can take in this and similar situations.

So we're both in agreement that Branch is in compliance as long as he's willing to accept the penalties for his holdout.

89
by JRM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:22pm

Lawyer Milloy and Ty Law felt they were undervalued. They went public.

Horsebleep. Milloy was willing to play under his contract, and the Pats wanted him at a lower number. They cut him.

90
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:49pm

His numbers in the Belicheck system, if anything, are undervalued compared to the effect he has on the game.

Yeah they better be, cause for a 4 year player who has never caught 80 passes, or gotten 1000 yards and gone over 13 yards per catch once his numbers are not earth shattering.
Look the Cardinals have one of the best wr tandems in the game, and they suck. How important a position is it, how much do you wanna pay?

91
by GKelly (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:53pm

RE:88
So we’re both in agreement that Branch is in compliance as long as he’s willing to accept the penalties for his holdout.JRM I would still disagree with the terminology. He is not in compliance since there is no article in the CBA to comply with. In other words there is no provision allowing a dissatisfied player, who is under contract, to holdout. As an example, another action that could be fined is "Conduct detrimental to the Club'. But IMO that does not mean that a player has the right to engage in Conduct detrimental to the Club or that if he should enage in such behavior he is in compliance with the CBA. If anything he is in violation of the last CBA (language of new revisions are unavailable but I suspect it will be the same) because of article IV section 1
...neither the NFLPA nor any of its members will engage in any strike, work stoppage or other concerted action interfering with the operations of the NFL or any Club for the duration of this Agreement...I am not a lawyer but I suspect a holdout by a member of the NFLPA would be considered the same as a work stoppage. So rather than using the word right or in compliance with the CBA which from my understanding presume entitlement or permission, the language I personally would choose to use if I was referencing what the CBA stipulates would be violation.While Banch and other players obviously can holdout, this is not a collectively bargained entitlement.

92
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 08/17/2006 - 11:54pm

JRM,
There's more to the Milloy situation than that. There were some personality issues between him and the new coaching staff. They had just signed some free agents (Ted Washington I think was the big one) and they did need to clear some cap space fast to stay in compliance. They did feel Milloy was overpaid, but they felt that way about other players as well. Milloy got cut for personality reasons as much as for refusing to take a pay cut (although, had he taken the cut, they wouldn't have needed to cut anyone).

93
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:04am

In other words there is no provision allowing a dissatisfied player, who is under contract, to holdout. As an example, another action that could be fined is “Conduct detrimental to the Club’. But IMO that does not mean that a player has the right to engage in Conduct detrimental to the Club or that if he should enage in such behavior he is in compliance with the CBA. If anything he is in violation of the last CBA (language of new revisions are unavailable but I suspect it will be the same) because of article IV section 1

In which case, the Patriots should file a complaint and bring it before an arbritrator, as per the agreement.

94
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:11am

Re: #92: that may be true, but Milloy never complained about being "undervalued", and that was the post I was disputing.

95
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:34am

RE: 93In which case, the Patriots should file a complaint and bring it before an arbritrator, as per the agreement.
JRM there is no need to file a complaint or go to an arbitrator because the manner in which a violation of this nature can be handled by a team is already specified in the CBA. The team can fine the player up to $14,000 per day, withhold game checks, and recollect the signing bonus that would prorate over the time missed. The only time a disciplinary action would go to an arbitration process is a situation where the discipline by the club is either beyond that allowed by the CBA or an area not specifically covered by the CBA. This is not one of those cases. Players under contract violate the CBA when they engage in a work stoppage and the legal rights teams have under this circumstance are already clearly defined in the CBA.

96
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:40am

Re: #95- so Branch is in accordance with the CBA?

97
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:50am

RE:96 - The maximum punishments allowed by the law for a DUI are defined within the law. If you get a DUI are you in accordance with the law or did you violate it?If you can answer this question you should be able to accurately answer your question about Branch. If you can't there is really nothing else I can do for you.

98
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:09am

The CBA isn't "the law".

If you can’t understand that there is really nothing else I can do for you.

99
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:12am

RE: 98 - The CBA is the binding legal agreement between teams and players. You really should read it if you are going to continue to pretend to know anything about it.

100
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:21am

Re: #99. Ooo golly, such hurtfulness...

Earlier in the thread, someone suggested that if Branch didn't like what the Pats were doing, he should complain to Upshaw about the CBA.

Likewise, I'll suggest that if the Patriots, or any fan that supports their position, complain to either Tagliabue or Roger Goddell if they feel the CBA can't rein in a Deion Branch.

101
by Lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 6:18am

Free Deion !!
A football player career is short.
Opportunities to win money are seldom.
He's right to fight for more money if he thinks he deseves it.
I don't know how it works in the US, but in France, when you resign, you have to spend a certain amount of time (depends on your statute) in your company before you're allowed to quit. Just as the period before to be a UFA.
I wouldn't like the boss I'm leaving to tell me :
Ok, you stay. Just if I was franchised...
The patriots are free to think Branch doesn't deserve his money, but then, they would have to free him, or at least, guarantee him they will.

And if the cards suck, it's not 'coz of their WRs, it is essentially their O-line and their genius coach who thinks it's an after-thought.

102
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 10:41am

Wow, where to even start?

I'm dumbfounded that anyone can actually be arguing that it's the owner's fault that players can holdout because there haven't collectively bargained for harsher penalties. So, the DUI analogy was a little over your head? Try this one. A defensive lineman spears a quarterback 10 seconds after he's thrown the ball. He get's a penalty and likely a fine. Was he in compliance with the rules just because the penalties for his actions weren't stiff enough to deter him?

Re:73
You asked me why I don't side with the players during a holdout. And my answer is that I don't give a good goddamn how much a player thinks he's underpaid. Why the hell would that matter to me? What I do care about is that my team be in the best possible position to win. And when a player or his agent start to bring their complaints to the media, they are essentially backing the team up into a corner where the outcome is almost always a lose/lose. The Patriots and Eagles and very similar track records when it come to renegotiating with players that want a better contract. If you keep your mouth shut to the media, and you have reasonable demands, you'll get your money (ie. Westbrook & Brady). Otherwise, it's been nice knowing you (ie. Law, Milloy, Trotter, & Owens).

Re:72

Jones is an idiot because he couldn't see past Owens' ability. Philly looked past all of his cancerous behavior in San Fran because being a disruption on one team does not make a track-record. But now he's done it twice. And after only two weeks of training camp you already have players in the Dallas locker room asking questions about who's going to win the power struggle between Parcells and Owens. You already have Parcells lashing out at the media because he's sick of hearing all the questions. And before training camp even started you had Dallas beat writers speculating that Jones brought in Owens against the wishes of Parcells. That is why Jones is an idiot. And I couldn't be happier.

Re 83:

To assign blame for the Eagles' record last year solely to them not renegotiating with a player after a single year of a new contract is laughable. Injuries had far more to do with it than Ownes did. Can you actually believe that Owens' presence last year would have been enough to overcome Mike McMahon throwing to him, Ryan Moats and Reno Mahe in the backfield, and what seemed like half the defensive first-stringers running out there. The Eagles did get what they wanted. They didn't set the precedent of backing down to a loud mouthed asshole trying to force the team to renegotiate of one year old contract. If the huge amount of injuries to significant players hadn't happened, would they have been a SuperBowl team? Probably not. But they would have been at the very least a playoff contender. And if you hoping that they're going to be as bad this year as they were at the end of last year, you should prepare yourself for a disappointing year.

103
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 11:20am

I’m dumbfounded that anyone can actually be arguing that it’s the owner’s fault that players can holdout because there haven’t collectively bargained for harsher penalties.

They DID bargain for harsher penalties!

So, the DUI analogy was a little over your head?

It was a dumb analogy- Branch isn't committing a crime.

You asked me why I don’t side with the players during a holdout.

I did no such thing.

And my answer is that I don’t give a good goddamn how much a player thinks he’s underpaid. Why the hell would that matter to me? What I do care about is that my team be in the best possible position to win.

While we're at it, it would be in your best interests if a player bought you tickets and personally drove you to the game.

You need to understand that your desires are different than the player's.

And when a player or his agent start to bring their complaints to the media, they are essentially backing the team up into a corner where the outcome is almost always a lose/lose. The Patriots and Eagles and very similar track records when it come to renegotiating with players that want a better contract. If you keep your mouth shut to the media, and you have reasonable demands, you’ll get your money (ie. Westbrook & Brady). Otherwise, it’s been nice knowing you (ie. Law, Milloy, Trotter, & Owens).

Where to start?

If it's that simple, why won't the Patriots simply say "nice knowing you" to Branch? That's what he's asked for- to play one season and then say "nice knowing you".

Branch and his agent DID start by quietly negoiating. When that didn't work his agent told his side of things to the media.

When did Milloy or Trotter complain to the media? They didn't hold out, they were simply cut when their teams no longer wanted them.

Is Jones an idiot for signing Owens? Wouldn't you agree that it's a little early to say, seeing as the Cowboys haven't played a single resular season game?

This reminds me of just a few months ago, when everyone was predicting that Owens would get a crappy "make good" contract after the Eagles released him. That didn't happen. Now those same people are putting forward their "locker room cancer" theories based on gossip.

104
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 11:49am

> That’s not entirely correct. Roughly $6 million of Seymour’s $2007 bonus can be moved into 2006, after the anniversary of last year’s please-come-back-to-camp bonus.

Yes, but that number is well-defined which is what I said. If the Patriots choose to accelerate Seymour's bonus (and I assume they will), the free cap space moves to $7-8m, still a nice number to work with.

Re. the other Glenn on Chayut: yes, Chayut's statement was more confrontational than I remembered. I agree with his comment on the 5-year rookie contract though. I still think business is business and if such statements are allowed to materially affect negotiations, that's the team's doing. The team has its own brand of PR manipulation: "this is our fiscally sound team-first approach which our fans have come to know and love and which no one player will be allowed to disrupt", "you're no Reggie Wayne", etc. Wise fans should tune this background noise out.

Re. the CBA. Regardless of the semantics around holdout penalties, holdouts are part of the sport. While the CBA permits teams to cut players with contract years remaining, it doesn't explicitly permit the threat of dismissal to force a contract negotiation either. But that's business within the system. I don't see a substantial difference between either tactic.

105
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 11:54am

First off, you did ask me why I don't side with players holding out. (RE: 67 - That’s essentially what Branch is doing, so I don’t see why you have a problem with it.)

a•nal•o•gy
n. pl. a•nal•o•gies
Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.

But if the DUI analogy is still too much of a stretch for, why don't you comment on my roughing-the-passer analogy.

As I don't specifically remember the details Trotter and Milloy left under, I'm not going to argue the point. But at least where Trotter is concerned, I thought I remembered him doing his share of complaining to the media. Regardless, that has absolutely no bearing on my original statement.

I completely understand that my desires are different than the players. I just don't give a damn. And why should I? The purpose of professional sports is to entertain the fans. Without the fans these guys wouldn't be making anywhere near the millions that they are now. So why in the hell should I care that a millionaire thinks he deserves to make even more money regardless of how that will affect the team, and by proxy the fans?

And no, I don't have to wait in order to know that Jerry Jones is an idiot. He overpaid for a player who just did everything in his power to disrupt a team. And on top of that he's done it twice. So no, I don't have to wait.

106
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:06pm

> I completely understand that my desires are different than the players. I just don’t give a damn. And why should I?

You don't have to care-- that's your right. You can continue to fervently root for the home team and their inferior WR substitute, and rail against the ingrate who just left town. You can even excoriate any player who deigns to ask for more than $1m/season (insert your preferred number here). But this is completely tangential to the discussion of the reality of the system and the specific player's worth within that real-world system.

107
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:12pm

But this is completely tangential to the discussion of the reality of the system and the specific player’s worth within that real-world system.

And that's fine...if they go about it in a way that doesn't affect the team's chances of winning. But once you cross that line and you start putting your bank account ahead of the team's goals, that changes things.

108
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:21pm

> And that’s fine…if they go about it in a way that doesn’t affect the team’s chances of winning.

Well, frankly, that's going to happen, all the time. Any player that negotiates for more money than the team's desired salary cap figure affects their chances of winning. Other players have to be cut or allowed to go to free agency because of a player's personal interests. That's inherent in a salary-cap system (or even a no-salary-cap system). The only thing left is the determination of who is being "unreasonable" or "greedy". I might put TO in that camp, but not Deion Branch, not based on my opinion of the situation at least.

109
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:43pm

The only thing left is the determination of who is being “unreasonable� or “greedy�. See, there's the difference. You're defining greedy or unreasonable in terms of their skill and compensation. I don't care how good a player (thinks he) is or how "little" money he's making. As a fan, my only interest should be, and is, what is best for the team. And whenever a player forgets that and starts placing money ahead of the team, that's greed. If Branch was an UFA this year, would he be making more money? Sure he would. Did he screw himself by signing a 5 year contract? I guess so. Too bad, it was his decision to sign it. I just don't understand why anyone would be alright with a guy, who's making as much as professional athletes do, hurting the team because he wants to make even more money (regardless of how much he deserves it or not). The only people who should be alright with it are the player and his family. They are the only ones who should have a vested interest in how much any player is underpaid.

110
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:45pm

First off, you did ask me why I don’t side with players holding out. (RE: 67 - That’s essentially what Branch is doing, so I don’t see why you have a problem with it.)

You said: "and if you don’t like it I’m sure there’s a cubicle out there somewhere that would be happy for you to call it home".

I pointed out that Branch is essentially doing that, so what's the problem?

Pro-owner fans like to say "if the players don't like it, they can do something else". Well, Branch is taking them up on their offer.

As I don’t specifically remember the details Trotter and Milloy left under

Then with all due respect, you shouldn't have used those situations as comparisons to Branch's.

I completely understand that my desires are different than the players. I just don’t give a damn. And why should I?

If this is a discussion you don't care about, why are you participating?

Without the fans these guys wouldn’t be making anywhere near the millions that they are now.

What does that have to do with anything? The conflict is between Branch and the Patriots.

111
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:49pm

Re #109: It's simple: some people can see beyond the "I'm a fan and all I care about is my own interests" thing.

112
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 12:58pm

> I don’t care how good a player (thinks he) is or how “little� money he’s making. As a fan, my only interest should be, and is, what is best for the team.

Again, that's your right. By that strict standard you're also going to live a lifetime of disappointment and aggravation with professional athletes. That's just reality.

113
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:08pm

My point was that if they don't like the fact that they signed a "binding" contract to play a sport, then they can go find a real job like the rest of us. So no, that's not what Branch (or any player threatening an extended hold-out) is doing.

And I'm participating in the discussion because a conflict between a player who wants more money and a team doesn't occur in a vacuum. It affects the fans, too. Granted I'm not a Patriots' fan so the specific case of the Branch holdout doesn't really affect me. But I can still argue the principle of the matter. When a player enters an extended hold out he does damage to the team's chances of winning. As a fan, the team's chances of winning are my only concern. So by holding out for more money regardless of the consequences to the team, the player is essentially telling the fans that they care more about money than they do about the fans. And considering the fans are the only reason athletes make the obscene amount of money that they do just strikes me as an insult.

114
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:12pm

Re: 111

One simple question. Why would you? We're talking about professional sports. The only reason professional sports even exist is because of the interests of the fans. So why should any fan want to look beyond the very purpose of sports? That just doesn't make any sense to me.

115
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:25pm

> The only reason professional sports even exist is because of the interests of the fans. So why should any fan want to look beyond the very purpose of sports? That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

Really? That's the only reason? You mean no one is making any money from this-- it's simply a gift to us fans? I might sign up for this program of "purity of sporting endeavor" when my team gives me free tickets to all their games. Otherwise I can realize that it's a business, and that I can also appreciate and enjoy individual accomplishment within the team concept. That's going to involve some compromise however.

116
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:28pm

Re: #114

I think it's common that fans have an interest and an opinion about not only about the game that happens on the field, but the economics of it as well.

What's ironic here is that I'm a lifelong Patriots fan. I was a fan when they had guys like Tommy Hodson and Hugh Millen as their starting QBs, when their home games were half-full, and when they were always on the brink of moving. I was a fan before Deion Branch got here, and I will be after he's gone.

Despite all that, I don't blame Branch for holding out.

117
by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:31pm

Wanker, maybe all that matters to you is your enjoyment of the game, but some people care about things like "fairness" and "reasonableness" and things like that. Their opinion may be colored by their opinion on which party is being unreasonable, but I think it's a pretty commonly-held opinion.

118
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:41pm

Re: 115

If there were no fans in the stadiums or watching on TV or buying merchandise, how much money would people be making off of professional sports???

119
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:43pm

Re: #118.

None- so what's your point?

120
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:49pm

What if there were no players, or we just filled the uniforms with washed-out ex-high schoolers? Hey, it's all about the team, and the team's interests-- "why should any fan look beyond that?" You make it sound like no one ever bought a ticket to see Joe Montana. Or even a Deion Branch, relative to his skill (Super Bowl MVP, etc.) and deserved pay level.

In any case, there's really no point in arguing further with extremism...

121
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 1:55pm

Re 116:
Despite all that, I don’t blame Branch for holding out.

See, that where we differ. And I really don't even think it's that much of a difference. But it's a difference at the core of this issue. You don't blame Branch for holding out because he thinks he's underpaid. I do. But it's not because he thinks he's underpaid. When you look at what he's making and the contributions he makes to the team, he certainly does seem like he's not making what he should be. And it's not even because he started a holdout. Last year Brian Westbrook started a holdout too for the exact same reasons, and I had no problem with it. The difference between the two was that Westbrook made his point that he was unhappy with his contract and the way negotiations were going, but he never took his arguement to the media (and neither did his agent). And after a week or two (I forget exactly how long his holdout lasted, but it wasn't very long) he showed up to camp anyway. He knew that being in camp trying to help the team win was the most important issue, and after he made his point he showed up even though he still didn't have a new contract. That's the way things should be handled, and he got his contract. And if there were any signs that Branch was doing something similar, this would be a totally different story.

122
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:02pm

Re: #121-

You seem to be very pro-fan. Based on that, wouldn't you say that the Patriots fans deserve an explaination as to why Branch is holding out?

Doesn't that make more sense than allowing speculation to run wild?

123
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:03pm

Re: 118 & 120

My point was to validate my statement that the only reason professional sports even exist is because of the interests of the fans.

If we just filled the uniforms with washed out ex-high schoolers, then there would be no fan interest, and professional sports wouldn't exist. Which just re-validates my earlier statement.

124
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:12pm

The only reason any business exists is due to support from their customer base.

I know people that like Nike products, but stopped buying their products due to their overseas labor policies. I wasn't one of them, but the point is that some people DO care about how a company treats their employees.

125
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:13pm

Re: 122

Which is exactly how Westbrook handled it. But an agent taking direct shots in the media at a team's front-office only serves one purpose, to try to publicly force the team into giving in. And that just doesn't work. On the contrary, it just makes negotiating that much more difficult.

If Branch had come out at the beginning and just explained that he's not happy with being underpaid or with the looming threat of the franchise tag and then went about the negotiation process without further commenting (agian, just like Westbrook did), and then eventually showed up to camp, I'd have absolutely no problem with what he's doing.

126
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:27pm

Re: 124

I don't really see that analogy working out. Nike out-sourcing thier manufacturing didn't really have any affect on the end product. Now, if that decision resulted in a decline in the quality of the product, then it'd be closer to this situation. And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the issue of the substandard living conditions. Can you really equate the displeasure of people over Nike deciding they'd increase their profit margin by paying destitute people a few dollars a month to work in some sweatshop in Southeast Asia, to a team not giving into an athlete making over a million dollars a year?

127
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:34pm

Re #126: I wasn't comparing a sweatshop worker to Deion Branch. I was using that example to refute your point that consumers unilaterally care only about their own interests.

Would a prolonged holdout by Branch decrease the Patriots' chances of winning? Yes, it would. Branch withholding his services is a detriment to the "Patriots Football" product, which I greatly enjoy

Do I exclusively blame Branch? I do not. The Patriots are partially to blame as well.

There are two sides that simply can't reach an agreement. Each side is looking out for their own best interests. No sense in me getting angry over that.

128
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 2:57pm

There are two sides that simply can’t reach an agreement. Each side is looking out for their own best interests. No sense in me getting angry over that.

But see, I look at it as the team having the same interests as I do. You can probably argue forever whether or not you agree with a team's specific decisions, but in the end the overall goal is in line with that of the fans (sans teams like the DevilRays).

129
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 3:38pm

Re #128: I recently bought a condo.

While it was in my best interests to aquire it as cheaply as possible, I'm not going to get angry with the seller for getting the best selling price he could on it.

As much of a Pats fan as I may be, I can't blame Deion Branch for trying to get a better deal for himself. It's his life and his career.

130
by GlennW (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 4:05pm

> But see, I look at it as the team having the same interests as I do.

As a fan of a specific team it may also be in your interests to have your team outbid other teams for a key player, improving your team but also enriching the player. And that requires a competitive system whereby players may hold out or eventually leave your team too. Basically, you want to pick and choose the terms of your personal interests. Which is fine, but it's the sports-fan equivalent of pissing into the wind-- you may feel temporary relief but the practical justification is rather messy.

131
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 6:26pm

This has been a fascinating discussion with obvious strong feelings on both sides. I am surely oversimplifying the issue, but on one side we appear to have persons that support a player holding out, while on the other the feeling is opposite. Independent of which side of the fence a person is on, a holdout as a course of action (COA) is not a collectively bargained COA; it is a personal choice a player makes which is prohibited by the terms of the CBA. The collectively bargained mechanism for player movement is free agency. IMO choosing the hold out COA does not make the player wrong and the club right; it simply is what it is – a personal choice; but in this discussion and others I have read it consistently seems to get confused by some people supporting the player as being a players right when it is by the terms of the CBA just not so.

The real issue in my opinion is that the salary cap created by the CBA results in what would be termed in economics a scarce resource; the salary cap being this resource with scarcity defined as not having sufficient resources (salary cap) to fulfill unlimited subjective wants. The salary cap is limited so allocating it means the club must make trade-offs. IMO an individual player is justified in wanting as big a piece of this scarce resource as he can get. The collectively bargained mechanism for them attaining this objective is free agency and the franchise designation. The club of the other hand must decide how to best allocate this scarce resource over 53+ players (usually more than 53 because of players being put on IR). And, there is no best way to know what optimizing this scarce resource would be from a team’s perspective because of injuries and players performing above or below expectations, until after the fact. So a teams allocation of this resource is at most a best guess.

With the existing salary cap and the number of players it must cover, it basically translates to an average player salary of somewhere around $2 million. If a team pays one player $10 million, because this is a scarce resource, 8 players now can’t make this average salary and would make $1 million in order to make the trade-off work. If a club signs another player to a contract that has a $10 million cap number, it now means that 16 players must be able to fit into this low end of the pay scale, and so on and so forth. So for every player the team decides to sign to a contract that for salary cap purposes is above the average salary, the team is also deciding to sign one to several other players to amounts below the average salary depending of course on how much over the average salary they pay the individual. This is the reality of a scarce resource. And the team must make this decsion while attempting to determine how it can be most competitve which can’t possibly be easy to do in advance especially considering injuries.

From any individual player’s perspective, it really shouldn’t matter that by them getting more, other players get less, but from the teams perspective, this does matter. So I for one don’t really like it when people call a player selfish for seeking to maximize his piece of the scarce resource and would personally simply see it as a case of appropriate self-interest. Conversely, when people criticize a team for being cheap because they did not pay what a player wants, it also isn’t fair because the team is really trying to maximize allocation of the scarce resource according to whatever internal philosophy they use to try and solve this very difficult economic problem. Obviosuly, any individual player and the team have from a scarce resource perspective, a potential for significant disagreement. This does not make the player or team more of less right; they simpy have very different interests and objectives from a financial standpoint.

That said, a player hold out creates an added dilemna for a team since it is a COA that has not been collectively bargained as a mechanism for a player to realize their interests in obtaining a larger amount of the scarce resource. And, I can certainly see where from a team’s perspective, how dealing with a holdout can create precedents that might make future dealings with the salary cap scarce resource even more difficult. As far as I can tell, the team that has the most repeated hold outs of players under contract has been GB with Levens holding out 48 days in 98, McKenzie until mid-Sept in 04, Walker and Franks (till the end of training camp) last year, and Walker threatening to never play this year until he was traded. I might be incorrect and another team has had more hold outs so if this is the case, I will stand corrected. The way that GB handled these were to give Levens and Franks large salary increases and to trade McKenzie and Walker; which in both cases the trades resulted in their realizing large increases in salary with the new team. So all players basically got what they wanted which as far as a player’s interests go is fine. If I was a GB player and dissatisfied with my salary, holding out would look pretty good since past precedent indicates if I choose this COA I am likely to get what I want either from GB or the team they trade me to. And, with this precedent, it is not unreasonable to assume GB might continue to experience hold outs. Time will tell. So from a team’s perspective I can certainly appreciate how they deal with a hold out being of considerable importance because of the message it sends to other players who might consider this same COA next year or the year after. The Past to date under Belichek/Pioli have not signed a player to an extension during the hold out. With Seymour last year I believe they shifted salary from a future year into a present year and then negotiated a contract extension in the off season. So the way they deal with Branch will to a degree set a precedent and I would be surpised if that does not infuence their COA. I would be shocked if they choose to negotiate an extension, drop the franchise tag, or trade him while he is actively holding out. Any of these COA’s would create an unwanted precedent.

Basically a tough situation all around but one which IMO really doesn’t have a bad guy…just different people trying to achieve different objectives. Personally when Branch comes back to the Pats this year (which worse case scenario he probably will by game 11 to qualify for an accrued year towards free agenecy), I will cheer for him just like I did the past few years. And, if the Pats can’t get a deal done with him long-term that matches how they feel they have to manage the salary cap, I will understand and appreciate the difficult choices they need to make when allocating this scarce resource. And, if other people feel differently and want consider the player as selfish or the club as cheap, well so be it…they are also entitled to their feelings and opinions.

132
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 7:14pm

I just looked at the CBA and came up with this:

Unexcused late reporting for or absence from pre‑season training camp by a player under contract except those signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article XIX (Veteran Free Agency)—maximum fine of $4,000 per day for the 1993‑95 League Years and $5,000 per day for the 1996‑2004 League Years.

Unexcused late reporting for or absence from pre‑season training camp by a player under contract signed as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article XIX (Veteran Free Agency)—maximum fine of $4,000 per day for the 1993‑95 League Years and $5,000 per day for the 1996‑2004 League Years, plus one week’s regular season salary for each pre‑season game missed.

It outlines the penalties for a holdout, but it doesn't say a player can't do it.

This leads me to believe that a player is allowed to hold out provided he's willing to pay the penalty to do so.

Unless I missed it (and I might have- I ain't reading 200 + pages of legalese over an internet debate :) ), there is NO language that states that a player under contract is even expected to report to camp.

One thing that struck me as odd is that the NFLPA bargained away their right to strike. Very stupid, IMO.

133
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 7:38pm

RE: 132
article IV section 1
…neither the NFLPA nor any of its members will engage in any strike, work stoppage…

Is it your interpretation that a hold out by a player is not a work stoppage?

134
by JRM (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 7:47pm

Is it your interpretation that a hold out by a player is not a work stoppage?

Yes.

A quick Google search brought these results.

From Answers.com:

work stoppage
n.
A cessation of work by a group of employees as a means of protest.

From TheFreeDictionary.com:

work stoppage
n.
A cessation of work by a group of employees as a means of protest.

From LaborLawTalk.com:

A work stoppage is an event at which work at a place of employment has come to a halt, either through a strike action, where employees cease working (often backed up by a labor union), or through a lockout, where the employer bars the employees from entering the place of work, or from performing their assigned tasks.

From WordWebOnline.com:

Noun: work stoppage wurk 'stópij
A group's refusal to work in protest against low pay or bad work conditions
- strike

135
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 9:04pm

While I concur that a work stoppage (and a strike) are usually used to describe mass actions by employees, I would not agree that they have to be mass actions. Ghandi's hunger strikes as an example are recognized as strikes even though it was only one person (see Wikipedia). That said, I don't know the actual answer in terms of how the NFL defines things, so your interpretation is as likely to be correct as mine on this point and I was just curious on your interpretation.

One more question, by definition a fine is money paid as a financial punishment for the commission of some act or a sum imposed as punishment for an offense. How is it that a team can fine a player (punish them) up to $16000 a day for something the player is allowed to do?

136
by morganja (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 9:50pm

Re: #87
And others.

Think this through a little bit and it's not nearly so complicated.

Is the draft a law of nature ordained by God? No. It is an artificial collusion by the owners of 32 football teams to restrict the negotiating rights of labor. This collusion has some benefits and some drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is that drafted rookie players have very little leverage, much less than they would have had in a natural, uncolluded environment. The Patriots and some other teams tried to take advantage of this colluded leverage to force their draft picks to sign longer term contracts than they would have otherwise agreed to. They now have some players whose market value is far higher than they have been paid over 5 years. The byproduct of this is that there is a large gap between what some of their players feel they are worth and, most definitely are worth on the open market, and what they are getting paid. This results in unhappy players, hold-outs, and resentment. This is basic stuff taught in undergraduate business school. New England thinks they are being clever in manipulating the system to their advantage. They think they can coerce their players into being happy little campers despite the fact they are simultaneously screwing them.

I see the same sentiment here by a lot of people that I find in incompetent management in the corporate world. You can't screw someone and expect them to perform at the same time. Some people seem to think that their employees owe them servitude rather than agree to trade labor for compensation.

Finally, think about this. How would you feel if you graduated college and then were subject to a draft and could only work for that employer. What kind of deal do you think you would get? What it be anything close to what you can get in a free market? Now imagine that you were told to sign a contract for half of your career upfront. Twenty years. And now it turns out you are extremely talented at your job. Would you be happy to labor on not making anything close to your marker value?

137
by Glenn (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 10:23pm

At, let's say, $16 million? Shirley, you can't be serious?

138
by GKelly (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 10:25pm

RE: 136
The draft and rookie contracts are collectively bargained agreements between the players union and the league. It is not a collusion of owners. The players and owners both signed off on it and it specifies the terms and conditions of the draft, salaries, creates standardized player contracts, disciplinary actions teams can pursue, etc. So I agree that it is not so complicated; I just differ in why it is not complicated. The Patriots and all other teams that signed rookies to 5 year contracts followed the terms of the CBA that existed at that time. Insisting on a 5 year terms was there perogative as part of that CBA. A rookie had the perogative to agree to the contracts allowed by the CBA or find some other avenue of employment. A CBA does create an artificial market but it is an artifical market the players and teams both agree to.

139
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 08/18/2006 - 11:03pm

morganja (#136 )--

Is the draft a law of nature ordained by God? No. It is an artificial collusion by the owners of 32 football teams to restrict the negotiating rights of labor.
It was, once. Now, it's part of the collective bargaining agreeement.

For both our sakes, I'll skip all the nonsense where you pretend to know what the Patriots are thinking and what big meanies they are.

I'll also skip the useless career analogy -- pro football ain't forty years, and most folks ain't getting a million dollars their fifth year out of college for what they majored in as an undergrad. We can talk about Deion Branch's situation with the Patriots without trying to make it look like something it isn't.

Four years ago, the Patriots drafted Branch, and used the leverage they had from that draft to demand (not force) he sign a five-year contract. He signed it, probably because that seemd better than trying again in the draft next year.

Branch has outperformed that contract and wants more. I'm with him on that. They offered him more, but not enough to his liking. I'm with him there. He begins to lose me when the counter-offer was, "it's Reggie Wayne money or it's nothing." We're I running the Patriots, I'd look at that, pay him for this year, and franchise him for next year. He's never put up Reggie Wayne-type numbers in yards or TDs, and while DPAR is a factor in Branch's favor, Wayne's doing what he does behind Marvin Harrison.

In any case, Branch is holding out specifically because they won't promise not to franchise him -- but unless he's negotiating (and it's a big secret if he is), he's not really giving the Patriots any reason to promise him anything. So far, they've held off levying the fines allowed by the CBA, so they've still got leverage, too.

I've said before, I think they Patriots should sweeten their offer a bit and try to re-start the negotiations. But they're not going to give if they don't get, and that's the system they and the Eagles have used so successfully. They can put a replacement-level reciever out there, and use their "Branch" money for "Graham" or "Koppen," both of whom also could use contract extensions.

Branch can't get a replacement-level team. Replacement-level job for him is whatever a communications major from Louisville makes, which I'm guessing is somewhat less than a million dollars.

140
by JRM (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 12:44am

While I concur that a work stoppage (and a strike) are usually used to describe mass actions by employees, I would not agree that they have to be mass actions. Ghandi’s hunger strikes as an example are recognized as strikes even though it was only one person (see Wikipedia). That said, I don’t know the actual answer in terms of how the NFL defines things, so your interpretation is as likely to be correct as mine on this point

I'm actually a bit saddened by this post.

GKelly, you're obviously an intelligent person. But using Gahndi's hunger strikes as a counter example to the universal definition of "work stoppage" punctures your credibility. In a debate, the sooner one lets go of a provably wrong argument, the better.

It's not my intent to flame or beat my chest in victory. But your interpretation of "work stoppage" was proven erroneous.

One more question, by definition a fine is money paid as a financial punishment for the commission of some act or a sum imposed as punishment for an offense. How is it that a team can fine a player (punish them) up to $16000 a day for something the player is allowed to do?

The player has the choice whether to report or to accept the fine.

If one is at the beach and the private parking lot is charging $25 to park, while the fine is $10 to let the meter run out...what would we all choose?

141
by GKelly (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 1:03am

JRM you didn't answer my question. How is it that a team can fine a player (punish them) for an offense up to $16000 a day for something the player is allowed to do?

142
by JRM (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 1:08am

#141-

The player can choose between reporting and accepting the fine.

143
by morganja (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 12:45pm

Re: 139

"Four years ago, the Patriots drafted Branch, and used the leverage they had from that draft to demand (not force) he sign a five-year contract. He signed it, probably because that seemd better than trying again in the draft next year."

They used that sole negotiating power granted by the CBA as leverage to force him to sign a contract he would otherwise not have agreed to.

The CBA is agreed to by the owners and the players union. While the owners are all signatories to the agreement that is not the case with players. To be equivalent, and to hold the moral force which you claim it has, it would have to be a union of all current players and future potential players. In fact, by definition, rookie drafted players have not agreed to the CBA except as a forced condition of employment.

What I find amusing is that the pro-management people are almost always anti-free market principle. Intuitively contradictory but logical if seen from an economics perspective.

144
by Zac (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 4:33pm

Re: 140. Are you saying that letting the meter run out isn't breaking the law?

145
by JRM (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 4:52pm

Re #114: It is.

Let's forget about the analogies. Branch can hold out. If he couldn't do it, he wouldn't do it.

It costs him $14 K a day, but he apparently feels it's worth it.

146
by Trogdor` (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 5:26pm

Morganja, I don't know exactly what you're objecting to. Is the objection that the NFLPA is acting exactly like every other union that ever has existed? Can you name one union business where accepting the CBA that you didn't negotiate is not a pre-condition of employment?

Although to be fair, the NFLPA allows a much greater amount of individuality than the vast majority of unions. If it was like most, there would be no individual contracts, you'd get paid based only on service time and position. So it's not entirely fair to compare it to, say, the UAW. When it comes to joining a union workforce, however, they're the same - you couldn't go to GM and try to negotiate your own independent contract. Either you join the union, or find work elsewhere. Why is it so shocking that the NFL union works the same way?

147
by morganja (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 6:05pm

My point is that as an employer you never want to have a disparity between what a worker is worth, on the free market, and what he is being paid. This almost always results in a resentful employee and all the productivity loss that it entails, not just for that employee, but for everyone else in the organization, This is a basic management skill taught in undergraduate business school. In a loophole since closed, some teams tried to take advantage of the leverage they held over draft picks to sign them to crazy long contracts at rookie wages. The inevitable fallout from this is that several years later, some players have outperformed their contracts, they see the disparity between their performance and their pay, which has lasted throughout their entire career, are concerned about ever getting what they deserve, and so become extremely unhappy. Right now, Tom Brady's favorite receiver is holding out, missing invaluable practice time thereby putting the Patriots season in jeapardy. Furthermore, everyone else on the team is watching this play out. They know how valuable Branch is to their team even if their GM seems not to. Right now, there are a great many Patriots thinking that they play for an organization that will try to take advantage of them every chance they get. Not good for team chemistry. All the GMs were aware of this trade-off when they offered contracts to their employees five years ago. Some teams took the Patriot strategy. Some teams thought that the price of an unhappy player, who will be a star almost by definition if there is a large disparity between his worth and his contract, was too high a price to pay and chose to go with the standard shorter contracts. Now we are seeing these alternate strategies play out. I am cheering for the teams which chose to treat their players well over the teams that think screwing their employees is a viable management style. That some support creating disparity between market value and compensation says a lot about what they think about the free market and the relationship between citizens in a free society.

148
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 6:21pm

#147.
Right now, there are a great many Patriots thinking that they play for an organization that will try to take advantage of them every chance they get. Not good for team chemistry.

As Bill Simmons would say, this is very high on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The Belichick/Pioli philosophy has been quite consistent through the years, and Pats "team chemistry" has really sucked, hasn't it? Sucked it's way to 3 Lombardis, it appears.

Please, stop the madness.

149
by JRM (not verified) :: Sat, 08/19/2006 - 9:29pm

The players have a rotten deal. I already know that they agreed to it.

In sports and in real life, sometimes making a bad deal is beter than going to war.

I personally think Gene Upshaw sucks. He should be out there telling the players and the public- especially the players- that the cap doesn't create competitiveness, it simply limits the owner's labor costs.

I would harp on the fact that accepting a cap is a major concession by the players, and that the players want something in return- a chance for every player, at some point in their career, to have full say over what organization employs him, just like every other American.

I'd harp home that this wasn't an economic issue, and that if a player grew up dreaming of playing for the Jets or the Cowboys, he should have the chance to do so at some point.

150
by Andrew (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 12:24am

JRM #149:

No one is depriving Branch of the chance to play elsewhere next year. All he has to do is show up in Foxboro by Week 10 to do so.

The real problem here is not the salary cap, but the apparent inability of the Patriots and Branch to have come to some sort of agreement some time in the past two years. I mean, what have they been waiting for until now?

151
by morganja (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 1:19am

Glenn,
Ever hear the phrase sucess breeds complacency? Ever think things through? Ever heard of, lets just throw out WW I, as a prime example? Or a million more examples? It's that kind of idiocy that leads to disaster.

152
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 11:29am

morganja-
You got me. I never thought to compare the Patriots locker room chemistry to WWI. Damn, you're so much smarter than the rest of us.

153
by Vern (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 12:11pm

Today's Sunday Boston Globe has Borges citing your analysis. Unfortuneately then goes on to characterise the Pats offer as way too low (using only the 2008 salary number of 4.3M rather than the real cap number of around 6M which you all concluded was about right).

We need a "GM Outsiders" to correct all the non-sense that you read when it comes to the finances of these deals.

154
by Peter (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 12:38pm

The Pats apparently are going to continue running a varation of the (west coast offense tweaked) ball control short passes, draws, screens using bigger stronger and better catching running backs/tight ends to run past line backers and over smaller dbacks. This offense needs "durable" receivers and speed receiving to spread the field when the defense squeezes up. Giving up on Bethel Johnson because of his speed may have been a mistake but his weakness was his blocking. This offence will freeze line backers and lineman with play action and throw high percentage passes to back and TE's that make Brady hold the ball for less time preserving their most valuable asset (Brady). Once Chad Jackson is healthy he'll provide the speed required to keep the dback's honest and burn them when their not by going over the top. Look for either short or deep passes and not many mid range passes. Branch is not a true speed receiver he's not a break away runner he's more a timing/route style receiver forcing Brady to hold the ball longer for the route to develope which is not what you want him to do (lets stay healthy Tom). He, Branch is expendable in this type of offense and he will never get paid huge money by the Pats or play another down for them if he doesn't see the writing on the wall and come to terms. He could be traded for value if the Pats can turn a deal. Givens value to the Titans was his size, strength and durability as well as his ability to catch the ball in traffic over the middle slants and in short wr screens something Branch dosen't do well. Branch does not like contact and has not proved to be durable. You don't see him running slants and many wr screens. If he were a true good "value" at the price he wants the Pats would sign him but for what he is that dosen't equate. The Titans overpaid for Givens but knew what they needed and paid for it.

155
by morganja (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 1:00pm

Glenn,
You are a pompous little thing aren't you? I'll spell it out in a little more detail since you seem to be being deliberately stupid.

Your theory as to the past sucess of the Patriots is reminiscent of a series of events that has played out millions of times to any who would take the time to look. When an organization is sucessful, the leaders of the organization tend to take a smug satisfaction in their sucess and attribute it to their own intelligence or character irrespective of the actual reasons for the sucess. I refer you to exhibit A: the belichick and pioli genius theory. I refer you to exhibit B: all the CEOs in the 90's who got on tv and in print every chance they got to tell us what geniuses they were. Exhibit c: The french military after they beat germany in WWI. I could go on as nauseum. What happens after these sucesses? They are followed by failure and defeat because the leaders never really analyzed their sucess, or did and drew the wrong conclusions from it. Why were these CEOs geniuses in the 90s and couldn't keep their companies profitable in the 2000s? Frankly, because they weren't geniuses and their sucess was due to other factors to begin with.

Now we have the Patriots. There are those, like Glenn, who think that whatever this genius duo choose to do is pure genius, just by definition, kind of like the Pope, except more infalliable. On the other side are people who think that the Patriot sucess came from a host of reasons that came together at the same time. For example, Tom Brady coming with an extremely low pick. If the Patriots actually knew how good he was they wouldn't have waited until the 6th round. The Patriots have dominated one of the two most pathetic divisions in football over the past five years. It is much, much easier to get to the Superbowl when you only have to play two home games to get there. Belichik has no doubt done a good job. But couldn't at least several other coaches have done equally as well in the same situation?

Finally, if the patriots honestly believe Branch is not that good then there is a simple solution. He has offered to play this year under the current contract as long as they promise not to franchise him next year. This should be a no-brainer, especially for infallible geniuses upon whose earth we are not worthy to walk. Obviously if he isn't that good there is no reason to pay him top five WR salary anyway, so no reason to franchise him.

Unless of course they really do think he is that good and are trying to screw him out of his market value.

156
by JRM (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 2:06pm

#150- The Patriots would still have the option of putting the franchise tag on Branch.

#155- The Patriots are playing their hand well. While I'm sympathetic toward Branch, there's no sense in teh Patriots giving up their right to use the franchise label.

157
by Glenn (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 2:08pm

Wow, morganja. Reviewing your posts on this thread, your extreme anger towards a)The Patriots b)The Eagles c)any Management d) CEOs e) me is palpable. Starshatterer nailed it in his first 2 words of post 87. I can actually see you pounding the keyboard, eyes bugging out, artieries clogging as I read and you try to tell us your labor/management theories, what Patriots players are thinking in the locker room (Tom Jackson tried that too) and what I myself believe about the Pats success and how it happened.

Relax. Put away the comparisons of Belichick/Pioli to French generals in WWI. Life's too short. Get a grip. I'll do my part and put down my weapons. This thread's long enough anyway.

158
by Vern (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 2:30pm

Someone else here said it best. With the cap, it's not about how good you are, or how bad you are any more. It's about how good or bad you are vs. how much or little you are paid. That's what they call "value."

It's funny, because folks seem to get this when it comes to the draft. You don't "reach" for a guy who is really of second or third round quality by picking him in the first round just because he's the best left at a position you need. Instead, you trade down, get him anyway, and hoard the picks.

With the cap, instead of "reaching" by overpaying for a FA that is the "best left" you can efffectively "trade down" by just accelerating bonuses and re-doing deals to transfer money from next year's cap into this year's cap. Just like when you trade down in the draft, you may not get to say you made a top pick, but you get the value and have lots more left next year to go after something better that is really worth the big $$.

BTW, are we all forgetting that the Pats offered Derrick Mason the TOP offer in FA a couple years back? He went to Baltimore because his wife didn't like the cold. If they think you are worth it, they will pay/offer it. Watch for a play on say, Drew Bennett next year, among others.

159
by Vern (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 2:40pm

Re: 155

The Pats have offered Branch essentially what he will get if they franchise him (it's about $6M/yr). In fact, Pioli more or less compared their offer to what he would get if franchised - and it represents the average of what the top 5 WR in the game get, so how can it be a slight? Also, he gets the signing bonus now, rather than no bonus and waiting another year to get the franchise tender.

So, relative to what the CBA allows, they are being generous. Branch is really trying to fight the CBA and bad timing. Yeah, if had started with a 3 year rookie deal like Givens, he'd have cashed in a lot more.

But that's how any market works. You and I can have homes of the same "worth" but if I sell mine in a buyer's market, you'll make a lot more on yours. Timing is everthing.

160
by morganja (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 3:37pm

Nice image, Glenn, but untrue. I am passionate in my ideas and do take offense easily from condescending posts. I defend my positions passionately but also with my reasons clearly spelled out. I'm always prepared to listen to rational intellectual disputes and to admit it when I am wrong. By putting our ideas out there, defending them, listening to critiques, modifying our positions and delving deeper into these issues we all gain a deeper understanding than we otherwise would have. That is the huge advantage of message boards. I will continue to defend my positions and ridicule counter-arguments based on spurious ideas. But I will be more than happy to return to a more civil level of discussion.

161
by morganja (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 3:52pm

re: 159
I'm not saying that the offer is a slight. What I am saying is that the Patriots would like Branch to think that they, and by extension, other teams do not place the same value on his performance as he does. Their position is that there is a disparity between what Branch thinks he is worth on the free market and what the Patriots think he is worth. Yet, by refusing to promise not to use the franchise tag on him, the Patriots are admitting that they do in fact think he is worth the average of the top five players at his position.

My position is that the Patriots had badly managed this situation. They are halfway through their pre-season and their number one receiver has yet to practice with Brady. They created a situation, by forcing their draft picks to sign five year deals, in which they have a star player who feels there has been a huge disparity between his performance and his pay. This situation needed to be resolved one way or the other long before camp began. Whatever resolution comes about, the question will remain, why wasn't this resolution agreed to before camp? The Patriot organization has been getting a free pass when it comes to their management decisions. Patriot fans should be the first to question what is going on in Foxboro. They have gotten use to sucess. If they don't start being smarter with their players, it will be a long, long time before they see sucess again.

162
by JRM (not verified) :: Sun, 08/20/2006 - 4:31pm

The Pats have offered Branch essentially what he will get if they franchise him (it’s about $6M/yr).

It's more complicated than that, obviously. How much is guaranteed? How long is the deal?

If Branch reports after week ten, what are the odds the Pats will franchise him? Would it be worth it for Branch to do that?

Hard to say.

163
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 12:08am

re:161
Holding the franchise card is a powerful barganing tool not one to be given away. Franchising as said earlier is a ONE year contract no signing bonus no security. Teams pay a premium but on a short term contract basis, that's why Vinitari dispised it so. When a player is paid as a franchise player he's priced against the avg. top 5 but the top 5 are all priced on longer term more secure contracts. Paying more than a players acturally worth on a one year basis while limiting your liability against serious injury and getting a player in his prime for a year can be a better deal under the right circumstances, besides buying time to replace him. Like the Pats did with Vinitari they paid until he exceeded his perceived value and they were able to find a suitable replacement. Your only as good as your last season as long as you come out of it healthy when you a FA. And what's to say if he returns week 10 he'll even get on the field to play and then what's your value on the market place when you've been virtually out of football for a year.

164
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 12:13am

re:161
Holding the franchise card is a powerful barganing tool not one to be given away. Franchising as said earlier is a ONE year contract no signing bonus no security. Teams pay a premium but on a short term contract basis, that's why Vinitari dispised it so. When a player is paid as a franchise player he's priced against the avg. top 5 but the top 5 are all priced on longer term more secure contracts with signing bonuses. Paying more than a players acturally worth on a one year basis while limiting your liability against serious injury and getting a player in his prime for a year can be a better deal under the right circumstances, besides buying time to replace him. Like the Pats did with Vinitari they paid until he exceeded his perceived value and they were able to find a suitable replacement. Your only as good as your last season as long as you come out of it healthy when you a FA. And what's to say if he returns week 10 he'll even get on the field to play and then what's your value on the market place when you've been virtually out of football for a year.

165
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 9:59am

Wow...just wow. I'm not sure why people are trying to complicate the issue. Just going through posts from the last couple of days:

#132 Unless I missed it (and I might have- I ain’t reading 200 + pages of legalese over an internet debate :) ), there is NO language that states that a player under contract is even expected to report to camp.

That language isn't going to be found in the CBA, it's going to be found in the individual contract. The player who holds out is, very simply, in breach of contract. That's not legal, in any application. Generally it takes a judge to dissolve a contract on behalf of one party, and that party better have a darn good reason. I can't tell Chrysler Financial that I want out of my financing contract because I'd rather spend the monthy payments on scratch tickets. The maximum allowable penalty is procribed by the CBA. That doesn't make breach of contract legal. Next time you're on the highway, look out the window. You'll probably pass a sign that says "Littering subject to fine of no more than $1500." Same thing.

#133 A hold-out is not a work stoppage any more than a player missing a game because of injury. Work stoppage in contractual terms refers to a strike, with semantic differences.

#135 At this point in his life, I don't believe Gandhi had a job, so he wasn't participating in a work stoppage, nor strike. Just an extraordinary protest.

#136 One of the drawbacks is that drafted rookie players have very little leverage, much less than they would have had in a natural, uncolluded environment. The Patriots and some other teams tried to take advantage of this colluded leverage to force their draft picks to sign longer term contracts than they would have otherwise agreed to. They now have some players whose market value is far higher than they have been paid over 5 years.

No team in the history of the NFL has placed a gun to the head of a draftee and made him sign a contract. The Patriots asked, not forced their draft picks to sign maximum-term contracts. It's smart salary cap management that allows a team to spend money on premium free agents and extend premium players, such as Rosey Colvin and Richard Seymour. If Branch or his agent felt at the time that this was grossly unfair, there were options available to them. For example, not signing the contract and wait for the Patriots to either trade his rights or go back into the draft, or negotiate a guaranteed contract that would prevent the Patriots from cutting him if he underperformed. Once Branch signed that contract, he's bound by it.

So why do players' sign these contracts? Because as confident as a NCAA player is in his abilities, they, and their agents, know that it might be their only one. And for a large percentage of them, even second-round picks, it is. When Jeffrey Chayut refunds to the NFL teams prorated portions of signing bonus that his clients who didn't see the end of their contract got, then I'll listen to him seriously about "fairness". For every Deion Branch who is underpaid, there are a dozen first round busts or near busts who are grossly overpaid in their first contract. Quoth Denis Leary, Life sucks, get a helmet.

#147 My point is that as an employer you never want to have a disparity between what a worker is worth, on the free market, and what he is being paid.

Agreed. If the league and union could find a way to reduce the salary of Charles Rogers and Robert Gallery to reflect what they would be worth on the open market, I think they'd be more than happy to do the same for Branch. Why are we having these discussions from the jumping off point of life being fair?

#155 Finally, if the patriots honestly believe Branch is not that good then there is a simple solution. He has offered to play this year under the current contract as long as they promise not to franchise him next year. This should be a no-brainer, especially for infallible geniuses upon whose earth we are not worthy to walk. Obviously if he isn’t that good there is no reason to pay him top five WR salary anyway, so no reason to franchise him.

Because that would be the worst negotiation strategy of all time, and it would be caving in to a player's demands. The tags are the only negotiating leverage a team has. Why voluntarily give them up. The issue isn't that Branch is underpaid. The Patriots have offered a fair extension. The issue is that Branch doesn't feel he should be obligated to fulfill his current contract, and that he'll only do so if the team gives up leverage. IMO, the Patriots are going about this all wrong. If I was in charge, I'd send word (privately) to Branch that the original offer was back on the table for one week, sign it or don't sign it, but if he's not back in camp by the end of that week I'd promise him that I WOULD use the franchise tag next year. Then we could talk about some token that would allow him to save face.

Finally, when we think of DVOA to evaluate a player, we're talking (I think) of Deion's value with Tom Brady throwing him the ball and the New England offensive line blocking. This is a little tangential, but we saw it with David Patten, and we'll see it with David Givens and Reche Caldwell this year. Brady's decision-making and accuracy make average receivers good, and good receivers very good. I assume Belichick knows this too, and as a result, understands that the Patriots' WRs are fungible, provided they are intelligent enough to grasp the playbook and run acceptable routes. As a result, his perceived value of Branch is likely significantly lower than Branch's opinion of himself. I don't think Chayut and Branch would be holding out if he'd been catching passes from Kerry Collins the last four years.

166
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 1:48pm

The Patriots have offered a fair extension.

Since none of us know the details of the extention offer, how can we say it's "fair"?

Dryheat, if you were negotiating a slary with your employer, would you like it if I unilaterally declared your employer's offer as "fair". After telling me that I'm not the one who'd have to live with the offer, you'd probably tell me to mind my own business.

167
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 2:21pm

Since none of us know the details of the extention offer, how can we say it’s “fair�?

Dryheat, if you were negotiating a slary with your employer, would you like it if I unilaterally declared your employer’s offer as “fair�. After telling me that I’m not the one who’d have to live with the offer, you’d probably tell me to mind my own business.

I'm just going by the figures produced by Branch's agent.

Since none of us are the ones who have to live with this offer, maybe we should just shut the website down. I mean, what's the point of having the website if we're only going to talk about the aspects of the NFL that tangibly affect our lives.

What an inane thing to say. Point me to an Extra Points column that affects your life.

168
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 2:43pm

For what it's worth, linked in my name is the Patriots' proposal. The main problem is that Chayut doesn't seem to grasp the difference between an extension and a new contract.

Apparently, the contract numbers for the three years starting in 2007 are fine, but the hang up is that Branch is refusing to play in 2006 for his contract number, and considers the three year extension a four year contract.

169
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 3:47pm

Since none of us are the ones who have to live with this offer, maybe we should just shut the website down. I mean, what’s the point of having the website if we’re only going to talk about the aspects of the NFL that tangibly affect our lives. What an inane thing to say. Point me to an Extra Points column that affects your life.

Yeah, maybe "we" should just shut the website down (rolls eyes)...

I'm dying to know the basis upon which you see that offer as being "fair".

My point is that doesn't matter whether or not you, me, or anyone else deems the offer as being "fair". Seriously, how can the offer be "fair" if there's a likelyhood of Branch getting more money by turning down the offer?

I see it this way- if Branch sits out through Week 10, the Patriots will be a lot less likely to franchise him. From there, he'll make more money by getting a better offer in the open market than the one the Patriots are putting forward.

FWIW, I see both sides of the issue. I don't blame the Patriots for saying "your contract says $1 M for 2006, and $1 M it will be", and I don't blame Branch for saying "I'm worth six times that, and I'll sit home before I risk injury- thus jeapordizing my future earning potential- by playing for 16% of my value".

170
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 4:06pm

If the league and union could find a way to reduce the salary of Charles Rogers and Robert Gallery to reflect what they would be worth on the open market

If a team isn't happy with a player's contract situation, they can simply release the player at any time.

171
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 4:07pm

Well, I agree with your last paragraph, except that Branch has no leverage. If Branch doesn't show up until week 10, I think he's increased his chance of being franchised, and he can do this whole rigamarole again next year. And he would have negative salary for 2005 after the fines. After all, the franchise number is more or less what the Patriots are willing to pay him for 2007, except he gets no signing bonus and he takes on the injury risk. It's a no-brainer for the Pats.

172
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 4:10pm

If a team isn’t happy with a player’s contract situation, they can simply release the player at any time.

Sure, except for the signing bonus, which accounts for the majority of the money. That's in the player's bank account, irretrievable to the team in case of injury or ineffectiveness. I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing, but it's the other side of the Branch "overperforming" situation.

173
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 4:27pm

Re #171- I guess we'll find out. It's all speculation, but I can't see the Patriots wanting to deal with an ongoing distraction. Branch won't be under contract after the season, so there would be nothing to stop him from ripping the organization and forcing his way out.

I'm going to retract one of my earlier statements. I said I didn't blame the Patriots for saying “your contract says $1 M for 2006, and $1 M it will be�, but I'm backing off on that. If Branch is worth $6 M next year, how is he worth $1 M this year?

If I were Branch, I'd tell the Patriots to get the idea of him playing the full 2006 season at $1 M out of their heads, because it simply isn't going to happen.

174
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 4:36pm

Re #172:

Gallery's contract is for $25 M, with $10 M in signing bonus. Rogers' deal is more complicated, but his signing bonus accounts for less than half his earnings no matter what happens.

It wasn't "the majority of a players' money", but I was surprised what a high percentage it was.

175
by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 5:02pm

If I were Branch, I’d tell the Patriots to get the idea of him playing the full 2006 season at $1 M out of their heads, because it simply isn’t going to happen.

So, I'm assuming in this scenario Branch shows up after the tenth game in order to get his accrued season in. He'll play six games for $375,000, minus $390,000 or so the Patriots, under the CBA, are entitled to.

If Branch is franchised, which I think is a near certainty, he'll play 2007 for 8.something. Since the Patriots have offered him a contract with a 2007 salary for 6 million, and a prorated SB for 1.33, why wouldn't they spend the extra million and do that, especially if now they're off the hook financially in case of season or career-ending injury?

There's no way for Branch getting around the fact that he's making 62,500 pre-tax per game this season, whether he plays 6 or 16. Yes, relatively speaking, that is extremely cheap. So what can Branch do?

1) Report to camp the day before the first game. He maximizes this year's salary, and doesn't expose himself to training camp or exhibition game injury. This is probably his best course of action and possibly what he has in mind.

2) Hold out until he's forced to report. Play 2006 for free. Don't get hurt. Play 2007 under franchise number. Hope for a big payday in 2008.

3) Hold out until he's forced to report. Play 2006 for free. Don't get hurt. Sign franchise tender and hope the Patriots trade him at the 2007 draft to a team that signs him to a large extension.

Those are the scenarios that can reasonably called "wins" for Team Branch.

176
by JRM (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 5:19pm

4. The Patriots make him an offer he's happy with.

5. The Patriots decide not to franchise him.

Remember, a team has to be judicious in it's usage of the franchise tag. Is Branch really the guy New England wants to spend it on?

177
by GlennW (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 6:41pm

> No team in the history of the NFL has placed a gun to the head of a draftee and made him sign a contract. The Patriots asked, not forced their draft picks to sign maximum-term contracts.

This is the kind of thing I object to though-- the serious soft-pedaling of what actually occurred. The Patriots took the hardest of hardlines on this maximum-contract issue, where many other teams were willing to compromise, and which eventually led to the latest CBA change. Deion Branch had very little choice in the matter if he wanted to make any money playing football in the foreseeable future. Regardless of whether the tactic was effective (it was), at least accurately describe the situation: the Patriots DEMANDED their draft picks sign maximum contracts. I'd put the action at closer to "forced" than "asked" (maybe the Patriots even "asked nicely", pretty please?).

178
by Jason Mulgrew (not verified) :: Mon, 08/21/2006 - 11:31pm

re: 167

I agree with what dryheat wrote.