Branch back, Brady takes one for the team

Patriots comings and goings.

Comings and goings in Foxboro:

 

Branch back for one more year

 

The Patriots continue to do a lot of the little things this offseason, and that should keep them at or near the top of the NFL once again.



They haven't dropped any bombs in the offseason, but they don't need to (cough, Jets). Instead, they're addressing needs, building depth, and going forward with the talent already on the roster.

 

But the Patriots did make one move on Thursday, re-signing wide receiver Deion Branch to a one-year deal.

 

Branch had previously expressed his desire to return to the Patriots, but it became a bit unclear whether or not it was going to happen once the Patriots signed Donte' Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez.



But sure enough, Branch is back, and he took to Twitter to express how happy he was, tweeting:

"It's truly an honor and a blessing to be back with #Patriots next year. Can't wait to get back in the swing of things."



Branch has combined to make 99 catches for 1,408 yards and 10 touchdowns in 25 regular season games with the Patriots since being traded back to New England last season from Seattle.

Next season, he should slide nicely into a reduced role, and at age 33, that's a good thing for a guy who clearly is on the back-end of his career, but still has much to offer.



Somebody who doesn't seem to have much left to offer -- at least on the Patriots -- is Chad Ochocinco. With three new wide receivers brought on and the re-signing of Branch, Ochocinco's role could be one that the Patriots deem "not worth a roster spot".

With Lloyd and Branch/Stallworth lining up on opposite sides, and Welker in the slot -- plus don't forget Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski -- Ochocinco may be bounced.

It could be best for both parties if that's the case.



Brady restructures

Is there anything that Tom Brady can't do to help the Patriots?

It doesn't appear so.

News broke today that Brady restructured his current deal with the Patriots last week, to free up more than $7 million on this year's salary cap, first reported by Brian McIntyre.



Sure, he's going to get the money (now guaranteed) in other ways -- bonuses, mostly -- which will eventually count against the cap in future seasons, but the Patriots continue to look good in the cap department.



They've yet to spend an absurd amount of money on anybody, and instead have made some nice signings on players who they probably feel can produce more than stats show with a bigger role. Bengals defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene and Chargers safety Steve Gregory are two players that fall into this category -- guys that have filled in in a commendable way. How Belichick plans to use them, of course, remains to be seen.



By shaving more money off the cap, the Patriots keep their options open for any potential additions or trades that may occur around the NFL draft.



Kraft will miss Green-Ellis

The Patriots seem dead-set on spending their money through the air and not on the ground. After drafting two running backs last season in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Patriots decided to let their No. 1 back BenJarvus Green-Ellis walk.



Green-Ellis to the Bengals on a three-year deal is all but done, as first reported by CSNNE.com's Mary Paoletti. That left the Pats putting a lot of faith in Ridley, Vereen, and Danny Woodhead.

Ridley showed flashes of what he can do, but fumbles toward the end of the season had the Patriots going back to Green-Ellis and Woodhead. Vereen was hampered by injuries for most of the year, and you pretty much know what you get out of Woodhead, who is limited in some ways by his size, but uses it to his advantage in other ways.



But while the loss of Green-Ellis will hurt the Patriots running game, it will hurt owner Robert Kraft on a personal level, who really grew fond of Green-Ellis over the years.

"One personal loss for me is BenJarvus," Kraft said. "I really had a deep affection for him. He did a great job for four years, I believe, he was with us. Especially this past year he was really supportive of me personally. We became good friends, and I'm always going to have a special attachment to him. Except when we play Cincinnati, I'm going to be rooting for him big time."

Green-Ellis isn't the only player the Pats parted ways with yesterday. Defensive end Mark Anderson had numerous meetings with NFL teams over the last week, and finally found a home in Buffalo.

Anderson parlayed a 10-sack season with the Patriots - essentially re-establishing himself in the NFL - into a four-year deal with the Patriots division foe.



You had to have had an idea that Anderson was probably going to be paid more elsewhere after the Patriots got him on the cheap last season. Anderson, who is primarily a pass rusher, essentially played his way off the team, not with poor play, but with good enough play to garner attention across the NFL.

 
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