1.) Deion Branch: Deion wanted #1 WR money, which the Patriots weren't about to pay. Instead, they made the best out of an ugly situation...trading Branch to a then contending team (Seattle Seahawks), in exchange for a #1 draft choice. The result? A win/win for both the Pats and Branch. Deion got his money...the Pats got fair compensation. Were there any lingering hard feelings? No. In fact, Branch went out of his way to sing the praises of his former coach and team. It was Branch who strongly recommended to then free agent WR, Donte' Stallworth, to sign with the Patriots.
2.) Asante Samuel: BB defused a potentially ugly holdout in 2007 by promising the franchised Samuel that he would not franchise him again in 2008. The result? A win/win. Samuel had a great season in 2008, as the Patriots nearly pulled off a perfect season. Samuel was allowed to leave for greener pastures with the team of his choice, the Philadelphia Eagles. Samuel still speaks highly of his former team and coach.
3.) Mike Vrabel: The 34 year old OLB's play slipped dramatically last year. Rather than overpay Mike at $4.5mil., BB choose instead to get Scott Pioli to include Vrabel as part of the Matt Cassel trade. This moved ensured Mikes' $4.5mil. salary in 2009. Had BB released Vrabel, odds are he would have signed on with a competitor, Miami or the hated Jets...for less money.
4.) Ellis Hobbs: The Patriots secondary had a miserable season...and Hobbs was one of the culprits. So...after drafting two new DBs (Patrick Chung and Darius Butler), BB deemed Hobbs to be expendable...and traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles in a draft day trade, which netted him OG Rich Ohrnberger. The result? Another win/win. Hobbs likely would have suffered reduced playing time due to keen CB competition. Such a fate wouldd have impaired his value as a free agent next season. Instead, he gets to play for a contending Eagles team, where he might start opposite his old teamate, Samuel. Meanwhile, the Pats picked up some sorely needed OL depth...and saved some cap space.
Since the trade, several pundits have interviewed Hobbs, surely in hopes of securing some strong negative comments against BB. But, these pundits have been astonishingly (to them) disappointed: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2009/07/01/ellis-hobbs-defends-belichick/.
A fan comment to the above listed article sums things up best:
"The players all seem to respect Belichick... sure they can't push him around and demand extensions or trades like the Jets used to do with Mangini, but they know they'll be treated fairly... i.e. Asante Samuel's agreement with the team not to be franchised.
It may be that in hindsight, Hobbs knows that he'd be looking at reduced playing time in New England this year. That wouldn't be all that great for his career - and he sees that in making the trade Belichick created a win win for both interests.
Vrabel may not have wanted to leave, or take a drastic pay cut - yet the Pats weren't about to pay him $4.5 million this season. But rather than cut him outright, which would have resulted in 1/4th the money for Vrabel this season (and allowing a rival to bring Vrabel on the team) Belichick sends him to the one team that can afford to take on Vrabel's full salary.
Both players likely wanted to remain with the Patriots - but when that wasn't an option they know Belichick did right by them."