Seahawks deal first-round pick to Pats for Branch

Updated: September 12, 2006, 12:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Even sore ribs couldn't contain Matt Hasselbeck's excitement over having former New England Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch to throw to as his newest Seahawks receiver.

Pats file grievance against Jets
 New York Jets
The Patriots have asked the NFL to look into possible tampering by the Jets over New York's attempt to obtain wide receiver Deion Branch, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports. A league source confirmed that the grievance was filed by the Patriots last week.

According to reports out of Boston, the Patriots are contending that trade talks were intended to be solely between the teams and the fact that Branch's representatives knew what the Jets offered in a trade compromised New England's ability to keep the wide receiver.

A Patriots spokesperson had no comment.

• For more on the grievance from ESPN.com's John Clayton, click here. Video

-- ESPN.com

Branch's arrival had Hasselbeck laughing Monday through ribs that hurt enough from the battering by the Detroit Lions a day earlier, he held them while jogging through a short conditioning session.

"It's going to be that much harder to defend our offense," Hasselbeck said of a unit that also has 2005 NFL MVP and rushing leader Shaun Alexander.

As happy as the Pro Bowl quarterback was, he thought of his father Don's reaction at the family home in Westwood, Mass.

"Oh, my dad loves the Patriots. If he had a fantasy draft, he'd pick Tom [Brady] over me," the younger Hasselbeck said.

Hours earlier, Seattle acquired Brady's favorite target-turned-holdout for a first-round draft choice in 2007.

"We still have to figure out how to get all the people on the field," coach Mike Holmgren said, smiling. "That's the chess game for our coaches right now."

Key Patriots Departures
From 2005 Season
Player Postseason Exploits
WR Deion Branch
(Seahawks)
Super Bowl XXXIX MVP
(Tied Super Bowl record with 11 catches vs. Eagles)
WR David Givens
(Titans)
TD in 7 straight postseason games
LB Willie McGinest
(Browns)
16.0 sacks (most all-time)
K Adam Vinatieri
(Colts)
Scored GW-points in all 3 Patriots Super Bowl wins

The last time the Seahawks traded their first-round pick for a veteran player was March 2, 2001, when then-general manager Holmgren traded for Hasselbeck.

In that trade, the Seahawks swapped first-round picks with Green Bay.

The trade hit some of Branch's former teammates hard.

"I don't think any of us envisioned something like this happening. It took the air out of me. It really did." defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. "When you look at Deion Branch, he embodies everything we want in a football player. Everything we talk about, the kind of guy we want on this football team, he did as good a job as anybody of embodying that."

"It's a tough day for a lot of guys on this football team, especially guys like myself who came in with Deion Branch," Seymour said. "To not have No. 83 in a Patriots uniform definitely hurts."

But members of the Patriots were also mindful that they've been through high-profile player departures before.

"We've seen distractions over the past five or six years that, really, we just handle," linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "This wasn't a situation [we couldn't handle]. I mean, yeah, we wish Deion was on our team. But the reality of it is, he's not. Deion, I wish him the best, he's a great player, he was awesome for us, he got the contract that he deserved, and you go on. We do what we normally do."

While the Patriots now are without their two top receivers from last season, every Seahawks player was grinning about getting Branch. He had been entering the last season of the five-year contract he signed as a rookie, but will be getting a new, long-term deal in the coming days.

"His representatives are flying in today," Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell said. "Obviously, we wouldn't have done this without the gist of the deal getting done."

The league has given the Seahawks a two-week roster exemption for Branch to learn Holmgren's intricate offense. Branch will begin practicing this week, but Holmgren said he was unsure when Branch might make his Seattle debut.

"It's all good for us," Holmgren said.

Even members of Seattle's already crowded receiving corps thought so.

Sort of.

Fantasy Impact: Branch traded
Deion Branch
Branch
Deion Branch looks pretty good in Seattle's colors, potentially better than he would have in New England. The fact the Seahawks only managed field goals in Detroit is irrelevant and too small a sample size to panic; the defending NFC champs led the NFL in scoring points last season, and have much of the key personnel back.

• For more of Eric Karabell's analysis, click here. Insider

Winners: Seahawks Insider | Losers: Pats? Insider

"I don't have no reaction," leading receiver Darrell Jackson said.

But then Jackson acknowledged the defending NFC champions are better with Branch.

"Anytime you get a player of his caliber, it makes you better," he said.

Jackson, who missed the preseason, had not practiced until last week following his second knee surgery in four months, in February. He played far more than expected in Sunday's 9-6 win over the surprisingly rugged Lions. The Seahawks also have veteran Bobby Engram, former Minnesota receiver Nate Burleson and 2005 surprise D.J. Hackett.

"Oh, man, I love it," said Burleson, signed in April to a $49 million, seven-year contract as a free agent.

Burleson played the 2003 and '04 seasons with Vikings superstar Randy Moss. He said that's when he learned the lesson that "there's always enough food on the plate for everyone to eat.

"It's going to be tough for defenses," Burleson said. "I can't even imagine putting four receivers on the field at a time and a defense focusing on one guy."

The Patriots at least get something out of the Branch impasse than fine money.

Branch held out of the Patriots' mandatory minicamp in June and all of training camp. He had been subject to a $14,000 fine for each day he held out from July 28 through Monday.

"It's been a long process," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "I think we tried hard to make it work out. I think Deion tried hard. We tried. It didn't work out and we've moved on."

Branch was eligible for arbitration after this season, but Belichick said the prospect of a potentially contentious arbitration process was not "that big a factor" in the decision to trade Branch.

The Patriots had already lost David Givens, who signed with Tennessee in the offseason for five years and $24 million, including an $8 million signing bonus.

In the 2005 Super Bowl, Branch had 11 catches for 133 yards against Philadelphia, helping the Patriots win their third championship in four years. Last season, he had career highs of 78 receptions for 998 yards and five touchdowns. In four seasons, he has 213 catches for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns.

"This is a known commodity," Ruskell said. "The first round can be a crap shoot, from top to bottom."

Ruskell said that when he was a personnel guru under former Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay a few years ago, the Buccaneers did a study of first-round draft choices. Ruskell said that over 15-20 years, 50 percent became NFL players.

"Fifty percent were busts," Ruskell said.

"If we were a young team, were trying to build, our records haven't been that good, this is probably not a move that you make. We feel good about where we're at. We're not an old team. We're a veteran team that's in its prime.

"We're trying to do something special ... The stars aligned for this to happen."

On Aug. 25, the Patriots gave Branch, who had been scheduled to make $1.045 million this year, permission to negotiate a contract with other teams and seek a trade until Sept. 1. The NFL Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of Branch after the Patriots did not trade him by the team-imposed deadline.

The grievance claimed that in allowing Branch to work out a contract with another team, the Patriots agreed they would trade him if Branch was comfortable with that contract and the draft choice compensation for him "was commensurate with what has been the value of similar players," union lawyer Richard Berthelsen said.

He said the New York Jets had offered a second-round draft pick for Branch, which Berthelsen said was of commensurate value.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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