Seahawks deal first-round pick to Pats for Branch

Even sore ribs couldn't contain Matt Hasselbeck's excitement over having former New England Super Bowl
MVP Deion Branch to throw to as his newest Seahawks receiver.

Branch's arrival had Hasselbeck laughing Monday through ribs
that hurt enough from the battering by the Detroit Lions a day
earlier, he held them while jogging through a short conditioning

"It's going to be that much harder to defend our offense,"
Hasselbeck said of a unit that also has 2005 NFL MVP and rushing
leader Shaun Alexander.

As happy as the Pro Bowl quarterback was, he thought of his
father Don's reaction at the family home in Westwood, Mass.

"Oh, my dad loves the Patriots. If he had a fantasy draft, he'd
pick Tom [Brady] over me," the younger Hasselbeck said.

Hours earlier, Seattle acquired Brady's favorite
target-turned-holdout for a first-round draft choice in 2007.

"We still have to figure out how to get all the people on the
field," coach Mike Holmgren said, smiling. "That's the chess game
for our coaches right now."

The last time the Seahawks traded their first-round pick for a
veteran player was March 2, 2001, when then-general manager
Holmgren traded for Hasselbeck.

In that trade, the Seahawks swapped first-round picks with Green Bay.

The trade hit some of Branch's former teammates hard.

"I don't think any of us envisioned something like this happening. It took the air out of me. It really did." defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "When you look at Deion Branch, he embodies everything we want in a football player. Everything we talk about, the kind of guy we want on this football team, he did as good a job as anybody of embodying that."

"It's a tough day for a lot of guys on this football team, especially guys like myself who came in with Deion Branch," Seymour said. "To not have No. 83 in a Patriots uniform definitely hurts."

But members of the Patriots were also mindful that they've been through high-profile player departures before.

"We've seen distractions over the past five or six years that, really, we just handle," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "This wasn't a situation [we couldn't handle]. I mean, yeah, we wish Deion was on our team. But the reality of it is, he's not. Deion, I wish him the best, he's a great player, he was awesome for us, he got the contract that he deserved, and you go on. We do what we normally do."

While the Patriots now are without their two top receivers from
last season, every Seahawks player was grinning about getting
Branch. He had been entering the last season of the five-year
contract he signed as a rookie, but will be getting a new,
long-term deal in the coming days.

"His representatives are flying in today," Seahawks general
manager Tim Ruskell said. "Obviously, we wouldn't have done this
without the gist of the deal getting done."

The league has given the Seahawks a two-week roster exemption
for Branch to learn Holmgren's intricate offense. Branch will begin
practicing this week, but Holmgren said he was unsure when Branch
might make his Seattle debut.

"It's all good for us," Holmgren said.

Even members of Seattle's already crowded receiving corps
thought so.

Sort of.

"I don't have no reaction," leading receiver Darrell Jackson

But then Jackson acknowledged the defending NFC champions are
better with Branch.

"Anytime you get a player of his caliber, it makes you
better," he said.

Jackson, who missed the preseason, had not practiced until last
week following his second knee surgery in four months, in February.
He played far more than expected in Sunday's 9-6 win over the
surprisingly rugged Lions. The Seahawks also have veteran Bobby Engram, former Minnesota receiver Nate Burleson and 2005 surprise
D.J. Hackett.

"Oh, man, I love it," said Burleson, signed in April to a $49
million, seven-year contract as a free agent.

Burleson played the 2003 and '04 seasons with Vikings superstar
Randy Moss. He said that's when he learned the lesson that
"there's always enough food on the plate for everyone to eat.

"It's going to be tough for defenses," Burleson said. "I
can't even imagine putting four receivers on the field at a time
and a defense focusing on one guy."

The Patriots at least get something out of the Branch impasse
than fine money.

Branch held out of the Patriots' mandatory minicamp in June and
all of training camp. He had been subject to a $14,000 fine for
each day he held out from July 28 through Monday.

"It's been a long process," Patriots coach Bill Belichick
said. "I think we tried hard to make it work out. I think Deion tried hard. We tried. It didn't work out and we've moved on."

Branch was eligible for arbitration after this season, but
Belichick said the prospect of a potentially contentious
arbitration process was not "that big a factor" in the decision
to trade Branch.

The Patriots had already lost David Givens, who signed with
Tennessee in the offseason for five years and $24 million,
including an $8 million signing bonus.

In the 2005 Super Bowl, Branch had 11 catches for 133 yards
against Philadelphia, helping the Patriots win their third
championship in four years. Last season, he had career highs of 78
receptions for 998 yards and five touchdowns. In four seasons, he
has 213 catches for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns.

"This is a known commodity," Ruskell said. "The first round
can be a crap shoot, from top to bottom."

Ruskell said that when he was a personnel guru under former
Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay a few years ago, the
Buccaneers did a study of first-round draft choices. Ruskell said
that over 15-20 years, 50 percent became NFL players.

"Fifty percent were busts," Ruskell said.

"If we were a young team, were trying to build, our records
haven't been that good, this is probably not a move that you make.
We feel good about where we're at. We're not an old team. We're a
veteran team that's in its prime.

"We're trying to do something special ... The stars aligned for
this to happen."

On Aug. 25, the Patriots gave Branch, who had been scheduled to
make $1.045 million this year, permission to negotiate a contract
with other teams and seek a trade until Sept. 1. The NFL Players
Association filed a grievance on behalf of Branch after the
Patriots did not trade him by the team-imposed deadline.

The grievance claimed that in allowing Branch to work out a
contract with another team, the Patriots agreed they would trade
him if Branch was comfortable with that contract and the draft
choice compensation for him "was commensurate with what has been
the value of similar players," union lawyer Richard Berthelsen

He said the New York Jets had offered a second-round draft pick
for Branch, which Berthelsen said was of commensurate value.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.