Deion Branch fights off a Giants defender in last month’s Super Bowl, which some thought could have been Branch’s last game in a Patriots uniform. However, the Albany native agreed to return to New England on Friday.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Deion Branch is staying home.
The Albany native officially agreed to a one-year deal Friday with the Patriots, giving him a chance to stay with the franchise that drafted him back in 2002.
“It’s truly an honor and a blessing to be back with #Patriots next year. Can’t wait to get back in the swing of things,” Branch said on his Twitter account last week when it was rumored he was planning to sign a one-year deal.
New England also signed free agent fullbacks Tony Fiammetta and Spencer Larsen on Friday, continuing what has been a busy offseason.
Branch, who has won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and was named the Super Bowl MVP in 2005, had 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season.
The former Monroe star was drafted by the Patriots in 2002, traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, and re-acquired in 2010. He is a holdover in a deep wide receiver corps that added free agents Brandon Lloyd, Donte’ Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez in the offseason.
“I truly hope Deion Branch remains with the team,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Boston Herald reporter Ian R. Rapoport last week. “He’s also been one of my favorite guys. I was sorry to see him leave.”
But now he is back with a group of wideouts that includes Wes Welker, who has been given the franchise tag requiring any other team that signs him to compensate the Patriots. Other Patriots at that position are Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Tiquan Underwood and Matthew Slater.
The signings of Fiammetta and Larsen, both about 240 pounds, could signal a shift in the running game to include a blocking back on more plays. Fiammetta spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys after two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Larsen played fullback and linebacker his first two seasons with Denver and fullback the past two years with the Broncos. He also contributed on special teams.
Stevan Ridley, a third-round draft choice last year, is the top returning running back with the departure of free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Cincinnati Bengals. Ridley rushed for 441 yards on 87 carries, a 5.1-yard average, and one touchdown last season.