news.jpgby Scott Benson

Despite weekend reports that gave hope to the contrary, the league deadline passed earlier today without a long-term deal between free agent corner Asante Samuel and the New England Patriots. Mike Reiss of the Globe was first with the details, including the dueling contract proposals that articulate the gulf between the sides.

For the second consecutive season, the Patriots – in probability – will open training camp without a key (and not easily replaceable) starter. And the door is ever more open for another last-minute trade of a surprisingly determined holdout, and another last-minute hole in New England’s starting lineup.

As the Herald’s John Tomase reported this weekend, Samuel could still decide to sign his one-year franchise tender and report to camp on time, with thoughts of a big season and a bigger payday down the line as an unrestricted free agent. This would naturally require assurances by the Patriots that they would remove the franchise tag after the season.

Or the cornerback could decide to carry out on his threats to stay away until week 10 of the regular season, which would almost certainly bring about the abrupt end of his Patriots career. Do we really think the team would react passively to such an action?

The beef here isn’t the dollars and cents the team is offering Samuel. Quick – how many of you think Samuel will ever equal the season he had in 2006? Then why should he be getting thirty million bucks over the next three years? He most certainly has been a starter on a Super Bowl champion, but come on – who thought of this guy as an upper echelon cornerback 12 months ago? He should be paid like one based on one big year?

No, I trust them to spend their money wisely. What I’m starting to wonder is if they know a lost cause when they see one.