D-Day for Samuel

Asante Samuel's franchise tag carries a deadline with it. Today is the final day a long term deal can be signed this season. The situation, once desperate, now appears salvagable.

Monday is the last day for players who have been designated with a Franchise Tag to sign a multi-year deal. After the close of business today, any action in that area will have to wait until after the season. Samuel and his agents are well aware of the deadline, yet have not reached an agreement with the team. If a deal is not done today, league rules require that negotiations will have to be shelved until after the season.

Conflicting reports have emerged on that progress of negotiations between Samuel's representatives and the team. Till the last few days, the majority of the news has been discouraging for those hoping for a deal to be reached. One local report published over the weekend indicated there might be hope for a deal to be struck, citing a source close to the negotiations. In either event, there are only hours left until the reports will be proven right or wrong.

Samuel's designation as a Franchise tag player will afford him the luxury of a guaranteed salary equaling the average of the top 5 players at that position. That figure is $7.79 million for one year. Although the money is guaranteed, Samuel cannot earn any of it until he signs his tender offer and reports to camp. He has said publicly that he wouldn't play under the tender until he had to, which meant he would hold out until week 10. Samuel went on record saying he was disappointed in where the negotiations were, and that he intended to hold out until he was either traded or given a better deal.

If the report published by the Patriot Ledger is accurate, Samuel might be signed to a deal. ''There's been a great deal of progress,'' agent Glenn Toby told the Patriot Ledger. "``We're a lot closer than we were before."

Closer to what is the question. It's believed that Samuel's representatives were looking at the deal Nate Clements signed (8 years $80 million). That is a hefty price to pay for a player who had one extraordinary season in his brief career.

A report in the Boston Herald indicated Alonzo Shavers, Samuel's agent of record, felt that there was still enough time to get a deal worked out, but he shied away from agreeing that progress had been made.

"Our lines of communication have always been open . . . we'll just see how it pans out," Shavers told the Herald. "I wouldn't go as far as saying we've made progress.

"We'll see how it goes. We have a little time left."

If Shavers and the Patriots can work out a deal, it will help the Patriots find some more breathing room under the cap. Reportedly between $7 to 10 million under the cap, Samuel's tag counts for the full $7.79 million in the 2007 number. A long-term deal could spread the cost of any signing bonus out over the length of the contract most likely reducing Samuel's 2007 cap number.

New England has a number of players on the roster who have seen time at cornerback and could become the starters if a deal is not reached and Samuel holds out. Chad Scott, Randall Gay and Ellis Hobbs all have experience as starting corners for New England. First round pick Brandon Meriweather could also see time in nickel or dime packages.

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