After the Patriots placed wide receiver Donte' Stallworth on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday (ankle), the next domino to fall will be the return of Deion Branch if everything goes according to plans.
Branch's Gillette Stadium locker has remained intact and filled with belongings since he was waived Nov. 17. Had he not sustained a hamstring injury at the time, he likely wouldn't have been released at all.
Given those factors, Branch's return has mostly been a question of "when" more than "if." It's mostly a matter of Branch returning to a level of health at which both he and the team share the same comfort level, as well as other roster considerations.
Comcast SportsNet reports that Branch's return is "likely" (link here).