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Why Deion Branch is more likely now

Posted by Albert Breer  January 14, 2010 04:08 PM

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3) The Welker Factor: Replacing the All-Pro's skills will be difficult enough, if Welker is to miss time in 2010. Losing someone Tom Brady can trust above anyone else makes it even tougher. So how could the Patriots possibly replace that relationship, even if it only needs to be temporary? Well, Branch always had a great rapport with Brady, so much so that when the trade was consummated, the Patriots quarterback sent Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck a text message saying something along the lines of "You're gonna love him." So it stands to reason that Brady would love to have Branch back, and that it might not be too difficult for the two to restore their old on-field chemistry.

4) The Market: Branch has had 177 catches in his four years in Seattle, and has missed 17 games due to injury. He's 30 years old. He's got a lot of miles on his 5-foot-9-inch, 192-pound frame. That's not to say he cannot play. But it is to say that he'll have less value on the open market -- should he make it there -- to teams that do not have history with him. Cleveland would be a possible landing spot, with Holmgren, the Browns president, and coach Eric Mangini having history with him. Denver or Kansas City could be, too. But the competition doesn't figure to be that fierce for him.

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Of course, the aforementioned health problems are the risk here. And it certainly stands to reason that the Patriots might have to be careful here, given Branch's own comments.

"You will never be back to normal once you have this type of procedure done. I actually feel stronger, but it's not normal," Branch said last year. "Something has been done that removed [parts] of my knee. My biggest thing is to continue to strengthen it."

So all this says that, no, he probably can't be the same guy who won the Super Bowl XXXIX  MVP.

But this is a guy who can play all over the formation (and did for the Patriots), and can seamlessly re-enter your offense. He's also someone your quarterback can trust. He's smart, and he's everything the old Patriots were about.

Maybe he can't be the 83 (well, he can't be 83 at all, really) you remember. But can he replace what the offense lost in Jabar Gaffney? Or fill in capably for a rehabbing Welker?

Why not?
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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