Was It Worth It?

Two years ago the New England Patriots gave up their former Super Bowl MVP for a first round draft choice, which they used to select DB Brandon Meriweather. The team hasn't been the same since. Was the deal worth it? For the Patriots that answer seems to be... Maybe? For Seattle, the answer is...

Probably not.

If there is one thing that the Seattle Seahawks' upcoming game against the New England Patriots will do, is it will serve as a painful reminder of just exactly how little the Seahawks got out of the trade that brought Deion Branch to the Northwest.

In 2006, with Branch holding out for a larger contract, the Patriots do what they normally do and decided that nobody is bigger than the team.

So they traded him to the Seahawks, who gave up a first-round pick for the 2004 Super Bowl MVP. He was supposed to be the cornerstone of a deep, talented, veteran receiving corps that was going to give Matt Hasselbeck unlimited targets.

Branch forced his way out of town via trade. Wonder if he regrets going for the money?
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Instead, Branch took a year to get to know the offense, catching just 53 passes in 2006. The following year, he caught 49 passes, limited to 11 games because he was bothered by a foot injury. In the Seahawks' playoff loss to Green Bay, Branch tore his ACL with nobody around him, which forced him to miss the first three games of this year.

And then when he returned this year against the New York Giants, he injured his heel and missed another five games. He is playing again, but he is not 100 percent, has caught just 13 passes and the Seahawks are 2-10 with a difficult decision regarding Branch's future facing them.

His salary goes up to $5 million next season, and he has been injury-prone the past two years. The Seahawks need to determine if they are going to stick with Branch and his salary or go in another direction.

The Patriots, meanwhile, drafted Brandon Meriwether with the first-round pick they got from Seattle and clearly have moved on, with receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss leading them to the Super Bowl last season.

There is another interesting side story in this upcoming game. Because the Patriots will have Tom Brady coming back, they likely cannot afford his backup, Matt Cassel, who has proven to be a viable starter.

Hasselbeck, meanwhile, is having his worst career season at a time that his salary jumps to $6.75 million next season. He has been constantly bothered by a chronically bad back, which has caused weakness in his leg.

If there is the chance for the Seahawks to pursue Cassel through free agency, that may be something they have to consider if they are concerned that Hasselbeck will never be fully healthy again.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to be tough like that throughout. You know everybody we play is jockeying for position in the playoffs, so it's not going to get any easier to the end." -- OT Walter Jones on the Seahawks' final four games.

LINEUP WATCH: Mike Holmgren said last week that he expects left guard Mike Wahle to return from his shoulder injury against the Patriots. Wahle has missed the past two games because of the shoulder. With he and starting center Chris Spencer missing last week against Dallas, the Cowboys got seven sacks. Wahle's return should help the run game, as well.

--G Mike Wahle, who has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, is expected to return against the Patriots.
--C Chris Spencer missed the last game because of a sore back. His status for this week is not clear.
--DT Red Bryant has missed a month with a high ankle sprain. He is questionable for Sunday's game.
--LB Leroy Hill suffered a stinger in the loss to Dallas. He is questionable for Sunday's game.
--S C.J. Wallace has missed a month with a hamstring injury. He is questionable for Sunday's game against New England.

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