It’s easy to understand why some people are clamoring for the Seahawks to cut receiver Deion Branch, who has been an injury-plagued bust since Tim Ruskell traded a first-round pick for him in 2006.
Branch has played in only 33 of 47 possible games in that time, and the Hawks have paid him $22.5 million for the meager production (average of 44 catches, 599 yards and four touchdowns per season).
Ruskell certainly should have told Branch to take a pay cut from the $4.94 million he will make in 2009, but simply cutting the receiver now would be stupid.
For one, the Hawks would save a mere $140,000 against the salary cap ($4.8 million in bonus proration would accelerate to 2009).
But bigger than that, why would the Hawks cut a talented guy who has shown the ability to make plays when he has been healthy?
It’s pretty funny that so many people are yammering that the Seahawks need keep only five receivers for Greg Knapp’s offense. Does no one remember what happened in 2008?
For those with short-term memory loss, here’s a refresher:
Ben Obomanu missed the season with a broken collarbone, Nate Burleson missed 15 games with a torn ACL, Logan Payne missed 14 with a torn MCL, Branch missed eight games (three coming back from ACL surgery and five with a heel injury) and Bobby Engram missed three with a broken shoulder.
It was so bad that the Seahawks had to burn a fifth-round pick in a desperation trade for Keary Colbert and then decided to bring back Koren Robinson.
With that recent history in mind, does anyone really think it’s a good idea to keep only five receivers?
If the Hawks are smart, they will keep their best six. And Branch is No. 3 on that list.
With the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the healthy return of Burleson, the pressure is off Branch to live up to the mammoth $39 million deal Ruskell gave him in 2006. So it figures that Branch will probably stay completely healthy in 2009 and contribute when least expected as the team’s No. 3 wideout.
Houshmandzadeh, Burleson, Branch, rookie Deon Butler and tight end John Carlson comprise the best weapons quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has had since he arrived in Seattle eight years ago. Why take one of those play makers away?
If Branch doesn’t make it through the season, the Hawks can let him go in 2010. But if he finally manages to stay healthy and perform well, the Hawks will have a fallback option next offseason if they can’t re-sign Burleson.
So, while the emotional response is to say, “Cut Deion Branch,” the smart thing is to give him one more chance to stay healthy now that the pressure is off and help give the Hawks one of the best passing offenses in the league.
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