Immediately after the New England Patriots shocking trade of WR Randy Moss, rumors began to circulate that Bill Belichick and company already had an idea of a replacement in mind. Former Patriots WR Deion Branch, currently with the Seattle Seahawks, is reportedly being sought after by New England.
Why the Pats would want Branch at this point in his career is anyone's guess. It seems as if by acquiring him they'd be doing more to appease their fan base and players, than actually improving the team.
While he was certainly an important cog of New England's Super Bowl winning teams of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Branch is a shell of the player that he was several years ago.
After being acquired by Seattle in 2006, Branch hasn't lived up to his expensive contract or lofty reputation as one of the league's best wideouts. Over four injury-plagued seasons, he has averaged only 44 catches and 559 yards per year. Though he's maintained his starting position for the Seahawks this season, after four games it doesn't seem as if he will improve on those mediocre averages.
In terms of replacing for New England what Moss brought to the table, Branch doesn't make sense. At all.
Moss is one of the league's biggest receivers, a dangerous and consistent presence in the red zone. He has elite speed and is able to stretch the seam and force defenders out of the box, allowing additional lanes for the running attack. Also, Moss has some of the most natural and soft hands in the league. However, he is not a great route runner, and doesn't like to go across the middle of the field. Additionally, he rarely lines up in the slot and catches short throws where he is expected to make plays after the catch.
In Wes Welker, New England already has a rich man's version of Branch. He is undersized at 5'9'', and possesses only above average deep speed. Branch thrives as a route runner, frequently catching short passes and making plays with his feet. He has good quickness and wiggle with the ball in his hands. At this point in his career, though, he is purely a slot receiver. Branch also is not the most sure-handed receiver, and often lets the ball get into his body.
The Patriots won't be able to find an adequate replacement for Moss. There are almost no players in the league capable of bringing to the table what he does, and they certainly aren't available to be traded for.
Acquiring Branch not only wouldn't effectively "replace" Moss, it would only duplicate what they have in Welker, who is one of the NFL's best at what he does.
The Patriots should stand pat with the weapons they have in their passing attack. In addition to Welker, rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski are talented players whose roles are sure to increase with Moss' departure. In that same vein, special teams ace Brandon Tate has the ability to develop into a threat at WR.
By trading for Branch, the Patriots would add little to their offense, and only prove to complicate QB Tom Brady's decision on where to go with the football. Factoring that in with New England's obsession with draft picks (which is what they'd have to relinquish in a Branch trade), acquiring Branch is not worth it for the Patriots.