The Patriots acquired receiver Deion Branch from the Seahawks for a fourth-round draft choice, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports, as the team recalibrates its pass-catching corps at the same time it alters its offensive approach following the trade of Randy Moss.
A few thoughts immediately come to mind:
Compensation -- The fourth-round price tag seems a bit high when considering that the Patriots acquired a third-rounder for Randy Moss. But the Patriots had an extra fourth-round pick in 2011 that they acquired from Denver in the Laurence Maroney trade, so that probably contributed to their comfort level with the price tag. Finances and a renegotiated contract also could have been a factor in the final compensation. The Patriots also have multiple picks in the first, second and third round next year.
Perfect fit -- Branch is one of the few players that uniquely fits the Patriots' needs at this time. He knows the team's system and can play all the receiver spots, so the learning curve won't be steep. That's a key consideration for the Patriots given their complex offensive system, especially when making a trade during the season. Branch is a high-character player who joins Brandon Tate, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Matthew Slater on the receiver depth chart. He should be active on the 45-man game-day roster for Sunday's matchup with Baltimore and represents a receiver-specific attitude shift of sorts for the team.
Changing offense -- Without the vertical threat of Moss, the Patriots are likely to go back to the type of offense they ran when Branch was putting up solid numbers from 2002-05. That's an attack that spreads the ball around and features more short and intermediate routes in a West Coast-like style. Branch has more wear on his tires at this point of his career, but he should still be productive in that type of setup.
2008 game in Seattle -- One of the unforgettable images from the Patriots' victory over the Seahawks in December 2008 was Branch sharing an embrace with Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the game. That was a sign that any hard feelings that had existed from Branch's exit from town -- when he held out of training camp -- were long gone.