UPDATE: The Patriots have made it official. Branch has been re-signed.
Deion Branch's locker at Gillette Stadium has been intact ever since he was released last month after suffering a hamstring injury. Now he says it's official, he's back with the Patriots, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran.
Deion Branch has officially signed back with the Patriots according to Deion Branch. PatriotsTalk Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) December 12, 2012
Curran reported two weeks ago that Branch had been working out and was close to being able to return.
Branch will fill out a receiving group that lost Donte' Stallworth yesterday after Stallworth was placed on injured reserve with an ankle issue.
The Patriots also released tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on Tuesday. Check out Curran's breakdown of all the team's recent moves right here.
The selection of Joe Thuney with the 78th overall pick means the Patriots hit a need position at offensive tackle.
Thuney played tackle on right and left side and, while he’s small relative to the Patriots mountainous starting tackles (6-5, 295 pounds), he will likely have a redshirt year to get used to the pro game. That’s what happened with left tackle Nate Solder when he was drafted in 2011 and Matt Light was still manning left tackle.
With Vollmer getting closer to the end, Thuney could conceivably play on the edge but he also has the versatility to play all five offensive line spots. The Patriots don’t need him at all five. They are two deep at center with Bryan Stork and David Andrews, seem set at guard with Tre Jackson, Josh Kline and Shaq Mason.
The depth behind Solder and Vollmer is where the concern is. Marcus Cannon hasn’t developed any consistency and Cameron Fleming is entering his third season but remains nothing to get excited about. L’Adrian Waddle was an in-season pickup the Patriots re-signed but he’s in the same boat as the other two. Keavon Martin and Chris Barker are end of the roster guys.
Thuney’s got a huge brain. He earned his degree in three years and is working on another in international studies with a minor in Spanish. While he’s seen as an aggressive, lunch pail guy with good feet but a little bit of body stiffness and no natural position, he’s got a lot of the traits the Patriots adore in terms of smarts, aggressiveness, versatility and coachability.
You knew the Patriots were in the market for a quarterback. With Tom Brady staring at a four-game suspension to start the season, they had to add someone behind Jimmy Garoppolo for depth.
What you didn't know was if that quarterback was going to arrive via the draft. And if he did, you certainly didn't know the round in which the pick would be made.
Those questions were answered late on Friday night when the Patriots grabbed North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett with pick No. 91 overall in the third round.
At 6-foot-4, 231 pounds, he has a frame that's ready to absorb hits at the NFL level and an arm that should be allow him to make whatever throw he's asked. What may have made him particularly attractive to the Patriots is that he finished his college career with a 46-to-15 touchdown to interception ratio, showing that he understands the importance of good decision-making.
He's not the most accurate down-the-field thrower, and he'll need some polish before he's trusted as a primary backup, but he has the physical tools to succeed as a pro.
Brissett is also thought of as a good teammate. His left tackle from last year Joe Thuney had nothing but praise for the confidence Brissett exuded in the huddle.
According to CBS Sports draft analyst Dan Brugler, Brissett's leadership qualities extended off the field as well. He wrote hand-written letters to his offensive teammates before each game, and he baked his offensive linemen desserts.
Only time will tell if he'll be able to work avocado product into his culinary repertoire for his new teammates.
The New England Patriots selected defensive tackle Vincent Valentine of Nebraska at No. 96 in the 2016 NFL Draft.