Following their shocking home loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the New England Patriots have reportedly reunited with receiver Deion Branch. This latest move is not nearly as surprising as Branch being cut in the first place.
The Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young broke the news.
Deion Branch is indeed back with the #Patriots, league source says.— Shalise Manza Young (@shalisemyoung) September 18, 2012
The Patriots released Branch prior to this season, but they are obviously rethinking that move. Last year, Branch pulled in 702 receiving yards and five touchdowns with the Patriots.
While there is no denying that the 33-year-old has lost a step, he proved last year he still knows how to produce in this system, and he obviously has chemistry with Tom Brady.
New England is going to need the extra help in the passing game.
As Nick Underhill of CBS Sports reports, tight end Aaron Hernandez is set to miss some time with an ankle injury, although not as much as initially feared. The Patriots also signed veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to help fill in while Hernandez is out.
Still, the Winslow signing was not enough. He still has to learn a new system and get up to speed with next-to-no practice time. This is going to limit the amount of sets in which Winslow will be featured, and it will become harder for the Patriots to run their passing attack out of two-tight-end sets.
They are going to need to rely on receivers more, and in two games this season, they only have three receivers who have even been targeted in the passing game.
Branch can come in right away with full knowledge of the playbook and instantly give New England some needed options as they deal with Hernandez's injury.
This move could also be yet another sign that the Patriots are phasing Wes Welker out of their plans, and if Branch outperforms Welker, the Patriots' leading receiver from a season ago will be headed for a dismal year.
Welker just got booted from the starting lineup in favor of second-year quarterback-turned-cornerback-turned-receiver Julian Edelman. So it would not be a surprise at all to see Branch's addition instantly cut into Welker's opportunities.