The Deion Branch holdout is over, but Branch isnít returning to the Patriots. Branch, the fifth-year receiver, has been traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2007 first-round draft choice today.
The 5-foot-9, 193-pound Branch was entering the final year of the five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2002. Unhappy with that deal, he held out of training camp.
Then, in late August, the Patriots gave Branch permission to negotiate with other clubs, and the Seahawks and Jets made contract offers. But a trade with New England couldnít be consummated by the Patriotsí imposed deadline of Sept. 1 and Branch remained with the Patriots.
Branch and his representatives then filed two grievances against the club. The grievances hadnít been heard before todayís trade.
The Boston Globeís Ron Borges reported that the first grievance procedure, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, had been delayed because arbitrator John Feerick wasnít available that day. The second grievance procedure was scheduled to be argued on Thursday and Friday this week, with discovery and deposition hearings today and tomorrow.
Yet those hearings likely became moot when the Seahawks, who edged the Lions 9-6 in their season opener on Sunday, offered a first-round pick. The Seahawks have concerns in their passing game, with tight end Jerramy Stevens (knee) currently sidelined and top receiver Darrell Jackson having undergone multiple knee surgeries in the last 12 months.
The 27-year-old Branch was a second-round selection (65th overall) in 2002. He appeared in 53 games, with 42 starts, and totaled 213 receptions for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns. In eight career playoff games, Branch had 41 receptions for 619 yards and two touchdowns. He was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.
Branch joins a team whose leading receiver Jackson, missed the preseason. Jackson had not practiced until last week following his second knee surgery in four months, in February.
Seattle also has veteran Bobby Engram, former Minnesota Viking Nate Burleson and 2005 surprise D.J. Hackett in its receiving corps.
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 quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
The Patriots are without their top two receivers from last season. David Givens signed with Tennessee as a free agent for five years and $24 million, including an $8 million signing bonus.
Background information from The Associated Press was used in this report.