Patriots franchise not in trouble with ‘franchise’ player holding out

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Happy holdout, Asante Samuel. Enjoy the sun, sand and surf while your New England Patriots teammates perspire by the gallon during training camp and build the chemistry that creates a Super Bowl champion.

Maybe you can land yourself a temporary gig yukking it up and talking down to the fans with the ex-jocks who populate the pregame shows on CBS, FOX and ESPN. Sundays might be lonely, otherwise.

Of course, you’re always free to rejoin the team in Week 10 after taking your stand for impoverished, neglected athletes everywhere.

We can only hope that Bill Belichick responds in the manner history has taught us: By advising you to take your ball and go home, or trading you to the Oakland Raiders for an interchangeable part to be named later.

You can safely add Samuel to the names of Terry Glenn and Deion Branch. Each overestimated his value to the model franchise in the National Football League. Samuel failed to reach an accord with the Patriots before the 4 p.m. Monday deadline for “franchise” players to sign a multiyear contract.

He now must either settle for the piddling tender of $7.79 million in the 2007 season or sit out until Week 10. That’s when he’ll have enough service time to become a free agent and write his own check next winter.

There is precisely zero doubt about what New England should do. Call his bluff. Unload him to a team that can afford to overpay a run-of-the-mill corner who will look painfully average when he’s surrounded by average talent.

The franchise tag is a misnomer. Tom Brady and Richard Seymour are clearly the players the Patriots could not do without. Heck, Belichick has even won playoff games without Seymour. But their contracts aren’t an issue at the moment.

Every team’s tagged player is the most dispensable star it can’t afford to pay market value under the salary cap. Seattle’s franchise player this year is its kicker, for heaven’s sake.

Samuel will never be confused with a “shutdown” corner. Sure, he tied Champ Bailey of Denver for the AFC lead with 10 interceptions. Bailey got his picks because he’ll be a Hall of Famer someday. Samuel plucked his in bunches because teams aren’t that frightened to throw in his direction.

Classic example: Charles Woodson intercepted eight passes for the Packers last season. This isn’t 2000. Nobody’s afraid of Woodson anymore.

New England will sign someone of equal ability for half Samuel’s going rate and put that person in position to succeed. Samuel will pack his bags and never sniff another Super Bowl.

Thank God for football: The last bastion of sanity for those of us who love true, team sports.

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