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Originally published Monday, October 11, 2010 at 7:28 PM

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Seahawks trade Deion Branch back to Patriots for fourth-round pick

Deion Branch, who was acquired by the Seahawks from New England in 2006, was traded back to the Patriots on Monday. The Seahawks received a fourth-round draft pick for Branch.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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RENTON — Deion Branch was absent from Seattle's practice Monday afternoon.

He was on his way out of town by the end of the day, traded to the New England Patriots, the team Seattle acquired him from four years ago.

The Seahawks received a fourth-round pick, the terms of the trade first reported by ESPN. While that fourth-round pick is a long way from the first-rounder Seattle gave up to sign him, it is a better-than-expected return for a 31-year-old receiver who was making more than $5 million in base salary this season. Just last week, New England got a third-round pick in exchange for Randy Moss, one of the most productive receivers of all-time.

The trade allows Seattle to recoup the fourth-round pick it gave up to acquire Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo last week. The Seahawks will receive the better of New England's two fourth-round picks, as the Patriots also hold the fourth-round pick belonging to Denver.

The Patriots reacquire a player who was named Super Bowl MVP in February 2005, and whom they originally picked in the second round out of Louisville in the 2002 draft.

Seattle gave up a first-round pick not just to acquire Branch in 2006, but for the privilege of paying him a top-shelf contract. Over the first four years of that deal, Branch made more than $13 million in base salary, according to the database of the NFL Players Association. That was in addition to an upfront bonus believed to be as high as $7 million.

It was money befitting a No. 1 receiver, but Branch suffered multiple injuries and his number of receptions declined each of his first three seasons in Seattle. He missed five games because of a foot injury in 2007, and in Seattle's playoff loss in Green Bay in January 2008, he suffered a severe knee injury that resulted in torn ligaments. That led to the first of three knee surgeries for Branch in a span of little more than two years.

He missed the first three games of 2008 rehabbing from surgery, then suffered a heel injury that sidelined him another five games.

He corrected the downward trend in receptions last year by catching 45 passes. This season, Branch ranked second on the team with 13 receptions.

Branch was heavily involved in Seattle's offense, but the acquisition of Brandon Stokley gives the Seahawks a capable slot receiver, and Golden Tate and Deon Butler will undoubtedly get more opportunities.

Mike Williams remains the starter at split end. He has caught 11 passes through four games despite playing through a thigh bruise and later a shoulder injury. Williams said Monday this is the first week since the season began that he really feels good.

News of the Patriots' potential interest in reacquiring Branch first surfaced Wednesday night after the Seahawks concluded their workouts during the bye week. Branch went to Louisville this weekend for a ceremony to honor his No. 9.

Branch was absent when the Seahawks returned to practice Monday, given a personal day by coach Pete Carroll.

Carroll was asked after practice whether Branch's role with the team was a question going forward.

"Not at this point," he said.

That was Monday afternoon. By the evening, Branch was heading back to the Patriots.

Note

• Bears coach Lovie Smith is hoping that quarterback Jay Cutler will return from his concussion this weekend against the Seahawks. "We're evaluating him daily," Smith said. "We'll see how it goes."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364

or doneil@seattletimes.com.

The Associated Press contributed

to this report.

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