King of all Pats bloggers Mike Reiss, who was probably hoping for a slow Friday, brings us the news that the Patriots have today isssued a statement indicating that they have granted permission for holdout receiver Deion Branch to explore trades and new contracts with other clubs over the next week.

So the Pats are allowing Branch and agent Jason Chayut a small window to go out and get the free-agent-like deal they reportedly covet, an effort that will undoubtedly be complicated by the need for these clubs to adequately compensate the Patriots, along with Branch. The early, feel-good theory from here is that this may be the first step in resolving the month-long dispute between the club and its star wideout. Or it could be the first step out the door for a player who had been expected to be a central figure in the team’s push for a return to the Super Bowl in 06.