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The methods allows to sign a transaction request (same as eth_sendTransaction), but without submitting it to the network. That's useful e.g for scheduling transaction to run in a specific time. Example of such dapp can be found here: https://txsched.parity.io
Supporting this allows dapps to "brick" a metamask account by consuming a nonce and never submitting the transaction.
This could be mitigated by dapp-specific accounts or retry (re-publish ourselves) and cancel (empty tx at same nonce) buttons. Currently our transaction controller regularly republishes transactions to ensure they stay in the mempool, so we'd also have to disable that.
While the concerns about bricking an account are real, supporting this call would also make it easier for users to interact with dapps on other networks without having to update their Metamask provider list. Metamask's use is a lot broader if it can be treated as a client's generalized signing tool.