After barely holding off hapless Detroit yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks upped their offer to the Pats for holdout Deion Branch to the 1st rounder at which they had previously balked.
Deion Branch might return as soon as Week 2, but it won’t be with the Patriots. New England traded the disgruntled wide receiver to Seattle on Monday. ESPN.com’s Michael A. Smith has confirmed a report that the Patriots will receive a 2007 first-round pick from the Seahawks.
The Seahawks, along with the New York Jets, had fashioned a contract agreement with Branch before the season, agreeing to a six-year, $39 million deal that would have paid him $13 million in combined bonuses and about $23 million in the first three years of the contract. Neither team, however, could satisfy the demands of the Patriots, who were seeking first- and middle-round choices as compensation at the time, and the deadline set by New England passed without a trade.
The Seahawks could use Branch’s help in the passing game, especially after an anemic offensive performance in Week 1. Wide receiver Darrell Jackson, arguably the Seahawks’ best receiver, has twice in the past year undergone surgery to his left knee. After missing 10 games in 2005, his durability has come into question. Jackson caught five passes for 47 yards for Seattle against Detroit, but the Seahawks struggled on offense in a 9-6 Week 1 victory, failing to score a touchdown.
In addition, tight end Jerramy Stevens will probably miss the first month of the season because of a torn meniscus in his left knee. Stevens is an often-inconsistent pass-catcher, as evidenced in the Super Bowl, but he does provide Seattle with a big presence in the middle of the field. Wide receiver Nate Burleson, signed as a free agent in the spring, is still assimilating the offense, and is more of a deep threat who may not be the best fit in a West Coast-style passing game. Always-reliable wide receiver Bobby Engram, forced to play outside in 2005 because of injuries, is far more effective working out of the slot.
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.
Despite most pundits’ confidence in Belichick’s “system,” you still need talent to win ballgames. But Branch was likely to sit out most of the year absent a trade and a 1st rounder next year will much more valuable to the Pats long term than a disgruntled Branch.
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