New England Patriots: Deion Branch Deal Analysis, Grade and Twitter Reaction

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New England Patriots: Deion Branch Deal Analysis, Grade and Twitter Reaction
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

It's safe to say the New England Patriots have cornered the market on free-agent receivers. 

After signing Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez and Donte Stallworth, and franchise-tagging Wes Welker before free agency, the Patriots made sure one another of their own didn't get away when they re-signed veteran receiver Deion Branch Thursday afternoon.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the deal is for one year.

Branch started 15 games for New England last season, catching 51 passes for 702 yards and five scores. He has spent six of his 11 NFL seasons with the Patriots, including the Super Bowl winning years in 2004 and 2005.

For his career, Branch has 502 catches for 6,499 yards and 39 scores. A large chunk of those numbers came while with New England.  

Despite a career that has yet to see a season of over 1,000 receiving yards, Branch is a trusted receiver for quarterback Tom Brady and should give the Patriots a solid base of competition at a position that was a weakness in 2011.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The 32-year-old will compete with free-agent acquisitions Lloyd, Gonzalez and Stallworth to start alongside Welker, who failed to come to a contract agreement with New England and was slapped with the franchise tag for 2012.

A one-year deal suggests that Branch will have to win his spot on the Patriots roster, which also includes Chad Ochocinco, Matt Slater, Julian Edelman, Britt Davis and Tiquan Underwood as holdovers from last season. Most NFL teams carry five receivers on their 53-man roster, and it's not unheard of to see six, but at some point the Patriots will need to cut a few players at the position. 

If Branch takes a step back between now and training camp this reunion could be short-lived. 

In the end, the deal works for both sides.

Branch wasn't likely to find a long-term offer on the open market, and the Patriots have succeeded in adding talent and competition to their receiving corps. Keeping Branch around only adds to New England on both fronts. 

His impact and numbers are likely to fall in 2012, but the Patriots have still made another move to fix what appeared to be a problem area last season. 

Grade: B

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