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Branch signs six-year deal with Seahawks

Deion Branch doesn't mind his almost $600,000 in New England Patriots fines anymore. His holdout-turned-honeymoon has fixed that.

KIRKLAND, Wash. (Sept. 12, 2006) -- Deion Branch doesn't mind his almost $600,000 in New England Patriots fines anymore. His holdout-turned-honeymoon has fixed that.

Branch can now write off the fines like a large phone bill after signing a six-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was losing a lot of money," the former Super Bowl MVP said.

Not anymore.

Agent Jason Chayut said that Seattle's deal, which came one day after Branch was traded to the Seahawks for a 2007 first-round draft choice, trumped a strong offer from the New York Jets.

He missed the entire preseason and the Patriots' season opener on Sept. 10 -- at a price of $14,000 per day -- before he was traded on Day 45 of his holdout.

The 27-year-old signed the Seahawks contract after he, his fiancee and 19-month-old daughter arrived in Seattle for the first time in Branch's life the night of Sept. 11.

"Oh, yes, sir. It's exciting," he said during a whirlwind day that included meeting his new Tom Brady, Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Hasselbeck already has given Branch some plays to study in coach Mike Holmgren's intricate West Coast offense.

"I'm excited to be a part of being something that Seattle has going right now," Branch said. "I hope everyone is not looking at me like, 'Hey, this guy is the next thing that's going to be (starring).'

"I'm just here to contribute to a major role ... I'm just a piece to the puzzle."

All summer, Branch has been just plain puzzled. He acknowledged he was worried about what might become of his season and life beyond 2006 -- all while a $14,000-per-day meter was running.

"At first, I was very shaken, because I didn't know what was going to happen," Branch said.

"The Patriots did what was best for their organization. And I had to do what was best for me."

Chayut said the NFL Players Association has dropped the grievance it filed over Branch's holdout as a result of the Seahawks contract. But the Patriots filed a tampering charge against the Jets.

On Aug. 25, the Patriots gave Branch permission to negotiate a contract with other teams and seek a trade until Sept. 1. The union filed a grievance on behalf of Branch after the Patriots did not trade him by the team-imposed deadline.

Chayut also said he wasn't sure if Branch will actually have to pay his Patriots fines.

"This is all coming down the pike," from the NFL, Chayut said.

The deal and contract make sense for Seattle -- if not for Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram and D.J. Hackett, the four wide receivers the Seahawks already have.

Seattle currently has ample salary-cap space. And if defending their NFC championship this season goes as planned, the Seahawks will own a pick late in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

On Sept. 11, general manager Tim Ruskell called Branch "a known commodity" and said "the first round can be a crap shoot."

Branch said he was "shocked" at the trade, which was completed within hours on Sept. 11. On Sept. 10, he was sitting at his home with his daughter feeling "weird" while watching his suddenly former teammates beat Buffalo on television.

He said he was prepared to hold out 10 games and then play in the final six of the regular season under his old Patriots contract. Six games is the minimum needed to get credit for a season toward free agency.

"Oh, yeah. That was going to happen," Branch said with a wry smile.

Now, he essentially has forced his way into free agency seven months early.

"I wouldn't wish that on anyone," Branch said of the holdout. "But I had to remember my purposes."

Those purposes were wearing sun dresses out in the hallway as Branch was speaking.

He thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, the New England organization and Patriots fans for "drafting me and giving me the opportunity to be the player that I excel to be."

As for his former teammates, who on Sept. 11 voiced their sadness over him leaving, Branch said glumly, "I'm going to miss those guys."

The Seahawks have a two-week roster exemption for Branch to get acclimated. Branch -- who said he is in top physical shape "because I had nothing else to do" -- will be at practice Sept. 13, but Holmgren said he did not know when the receiver would make his Seattle game debut.

"I'm happy it's over," Branch said, obviously relieved. "I'm ready for some football."

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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