“This is a business, I understand that, trust me,” he said. “No one speaks about the fact that I’ve been mentioned in trade rumors the last two years. No, the big thing is ‘Deion wants to go back to New England.’ … Yeah, if the opportunity presents itself, and Seattle’s gonna trade me, I’d love to go back to New England. But I’d love to go anywhere. I want to play football.”
We did talk about how Josh McDaniels is now in Denver, and Charlie Weis is now in Cleveland, and Brian Daboll is in Cleveland, and he emphasized that he’d take all into account, if he were to become a free agent. Branch said: “If that happened, I’d weigh my options, and that means looking at pay, and my play time, a lot would go into it.”
For our purposes, let’s look at it from a Patriots perspective. If Branch came here, and could stay healthy, what’s the upshot for New England? First and foremost, he’s a known commodity. But almost as important is his versatility to play all the receiver spots in the Patriots offense.
That means, while Wes Welker heals, or if Julian Edelman struggles to adjust to a heavier load, Branch can be your slot receiver. Then, if Welker gets healthy or Edelman hits his stride? You move Branch outside, and he can be effective there. That malleability, in addition to his knowledge of the offense, makes Branch the ideal insurance policy for the Patriots receiving corps. And trust me, Branch knows it.
“We had something special there,” Branch said. “And it all goes back to
the credibility everyone had with one another. The work we all put in
during the offseason, in the meeting room, on the practice field, after
practice, that’s where everyone should get credit. And then, outside of
that, you’ve got Tom (Brady), the biggest competitor in the world,
expecting perfection and that trickles down and that’s what we as
receivers, as well as the other players, started to expect and realized
we should want.”
So what does Deion have left?
Well, we mentioned his health problems when discussing his viability last month. He said then that his knee would never be the same.
“What I’m saying is, logically, the knee will never be the same as when I was born,” Branch said. “The patella graft, it’s not supposed to be there. But I can still do the same things, if not better, because I’m more experienced. I’m the guy you remember from four years ago. Really, those early days, I was playing off my natural ability. I’m eight years in now, I’m more experienced, I’m more wise about certain things, and you combine that with my natural talent, I’m same guy you guys remember.
“I’ve never doubt myself. I know what type of player I am. I know what I can bring, given the opportunity — Put that part in bold letters.”
And so he waits. As he said yesterday, he’s not sure what’s next with Seattle, but he’s planning on being a part of the club’s offseason program, which kicks off March 15.
Whether it’s Seattle or someone else, he seems pretty sure of what he can bring to a football team.
“It’s playmaking ability on the field and, off the field, teaching younger guys what to do and what not to do,” Branch said. “I’m a guy that wants to be a part of something special, and I’m a team player. I don’t need 15 balls thrown to be — it’s nice when that happens, but I don’t need it. I just want to be one of those guys who’s working to get to the goals that, as a team, you’re trying to accomplish. That’s me.”