Branch Looks at Trade, Release Options

Branch Looks at Trade, Release Options

With the free agency period in March fast approaching, trade talk has begun to heat up. And in anticipation of his possible release, Seahawks' receiver Deion Branch said he wouldn't mind returning to his former team, the New England Patriots.

"To this day, I still talk with half of the guys that were on the team with me," Branch told the Boston Herald. "It's a special bond. For us to reunite, I don't know. I would probably be crying at the press conference, if it happens. Look, I've enjoyed my time with the Seahawks. I would love to stay in Seattle. But if it happens, if it presents itself, that would be great."

Branch's performance in Seattle has been lukewarm at best. The 30-year-old receiver only played in 47 of the possible 64 games during his four-year stint in Seattle, averaging only 44 receptions for 559 receiving yards and three touchdowns a season. And he's only played in all 16 games of a season once in his eight-year NFL career.

Two knee surgeries and lingering hamstring issues limited Branch's production. However, a more troubling statistic for Branch during the 2009 season was his lack of explosive plays, as he averaged just 9.7 yards per catch, with only three of his 43 catches covering more than 20 yards.

Part of the reason for Branch's lack of production last season was because he was miscast in the Seahawks new offense installed by former offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Branch's skill set is probably built more for a slot receiver, but the Seahawks signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh to play slot, leaving Branch to play on the outside when Nate Burleson went down with an ankle injury at the end of the season.

However, when given the chance for more playing time, Branch did not take advantage. His performance against Tampa Bay typified Branch's struggles. He was targeted a team-high 10 times by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in a 24-7 home loss to Tampa Bay, finishing with only 4 catches for 28 yards. Three of the balls targeted to Branch ended up as interceptions for Tampa Bay.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, Seahawks general manager John Schneider, in what appears to be an attempt to generate trade value, said the team does not plan on releasing Branch and that he would fit into new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' system. However, Schneider wouldn't rule out a possible trade, according to the report.

But with two years left on Branch's contract, including a base salary of $5.47 million due in 2010, teams would be wise to wait for the Seahawks to release Branch instead of giving up a valuable draft pick for his services.

For his part, Branch believes he can still be a key piece for a playoff team.

"I'm great," Branch told the Boston Herald when asked about his health. "It probably didn't look that way (last year). But everything is good. I'm just looking forward to next season whether it's with Seattle or somewhere else."

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