Branch returns to Patriots with family in mind

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Branch returns to Patriots with family in mind

FOXBORO -- Deion Branch could have signed with another team. Interest was shown around the league, and he even entertained the idea of playing elsewhere after being released by the Patriots just days after the final preseason game.

And while maybe, just maybe, he had his own personal reasons for signing with another team, that wouldn't have been in his family's best interest.

So, nearly a month later and two games into the regular season, Branch re-signed with the Patriots on Tuesday, and he was back at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.

"I'm very blessed to have my priorities in line, and I think that's the difference that may separate me from some younger guys," said Branch before Wednesday's practice.

Those priorities were his family.

"That's something that you know, hey, there's plenty of teams that are interested in you," said Branch. "But are you interested in going to play for those teams? Those are the things that I had to answer. That's the stuff that I was truly battling with. Am I ready to uproot my family and move from here to go and play for a that team?"

"Family is more important. My wife and my kids, school just started. There's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of things that factors into your decision. You've got to make sure you make the right decision for your family."

Branch has children in pre-kindergarten, first grade, and sixth grade. He made it clear that the biggest reason he re-signed with the Patriots was because he didn't want to take his young children away from their friends, knowing how tough it would be on them at such an early age.

"It's mainly important for me to just understand my kids' feelings," said Branch. "To know that they're growing. It's hard to move your kids. When you're grown, we can adapt to a certain environment. But when your kids go to different schools and have to make new friends, that takes a little while. And I think I took that into consideration a lot, knowing my kids' feelings. They're very open-hearted kids, man. They love being around people. And the last thing I wanted to do was put them in an environment they didn't want to be in."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.