The trade or release of Deion Branch seemed almost fated during the 2009 season.
BranchBranch was making lots of money. He wasn't producing at a high level. He had injury concerns. He didn't seem to fit the offense. The team was losing.
Subsequent events make Branch appear more valuable to Seattle, at least in the short term:
No salary cap. The dissolution of the salary cap removed the most relevant framework for valuing players. The more than $5 million owed to Branch for the 2010 season was arguably too much relative to a salary cap. Take away the cap, however, and carrying that salary becomes easier to justify.
Diminished receiver depth. The Seahawks watched Nate Burleson leave in free agency after determining they weren't going to value him at more than $9 million, the amount paid to franchise players at the position. Subtracting Burleson leaves Seattle with Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deon Butler, Ruvell Martin, Patrick Carter, Mike Hass, Michael Jones and restricted free agent Ben Obomanu as the Seahawks' receivers. The expected signing of Sean Morey will help the special-teams situation more than the receiver situation.
Given the latter item, can the Seahawks afford to part with Branch at this point? They have shown little fear in flushing out depth at other positions -- safety comes to mind -- but keeping Branch at least in the short term makes sense on another level. I think the Patriots would welcome him back. Branch also has ties to Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, although I'm not sure if Denver has interest in him. Branch could have some value beyond what he offers on the field. Another reason to keep him for now.
Acquiring Brandon Marshall from Denver would make it easier to justify parting with Branch. Adding a starting-caliber receiver in the draft could also affect the thinking. Right now, however, Branch is one of the two best receivers on the team.