The Future of Deion Branch

One of the bigger question marks in the free agency game in Seattle this offseason: What to do with Deion Branch?

Well, the answer should be obvious. Branch hasn’t been as stellar as advertised when he first came to the Northwest in 2006, just after taking home the Super Bowl MVP award with the Patriots. Four years later, most Seahawk fans can only brace themselves when they watch Branch play, because he’s accrued roughly 172 injuries since joining the team. At one point I swore he had ACLs made of styrofoam.

But with the regime change hitting Seattle, Branch’s future is suddenly raising more questions than it did with Tim Ruskell and Jim Mora in charge. He’s due to make a gigantically overpriced salary of $5.47 million in the 2010 season, and he’s now 30 years old and coming off another sub-par season (though sans major injuries, to his credit.) Granted, Branch hasn’t been absolutely awful when healthy, but the bottom line comes down to him not being worth his contract.

Tom Curran, a writer with New England sports blog, makes a couple of observations about Branch in this post. He says the Patriots may have interest in Branch to shore up their thinning receiving corps, as former Patriot and current analyst Troy Brown recently said.

Curran also notes that new GM John Schneider may be drumming up market interest in Branch by only saying he would “fit well” in the new system Jeremy Bates is launching in Seattle. That may be true, but the team did draft another wide receiver named Deon last year, and from what I saw, his talent was throttled by Greg Knapp’s horrifyingly inept play calling.

“Young Deon” Butler, as the other receivers referred to him last year, might not ever win a Super Bowl MVP in his career, but few players have the chance to catch passes from a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning. And from what I’ve seen, Butler’s speed and athleticism can help make him a high-caliber replacement for Branch, lessening the team’s need for the veteran.

Now, here’s the question: What, if anything, could the team get for Deion Branch? A low-round pick at best? Would the deal involve multiple players? Multiple teams? Would Mike Holmgren want him in Cleveland? After all, the Browns are probably two months away from signing their cheerleaders to play receiver by now.

But I digress. I sense this topic could make for some awesome chatter while we’re waiting around for the Combine and free agency to start.