Pats re-sign WR Branch, add 2 fullbacks
The New England Patriots have re-signed wide receiver Deion Branch and signed free agent fullbacks Tony Fiammetta and Spencer Larsen.
Branch had 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season. He 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.
New England's top wide receiver is 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 announcements Friday of the signings of Fiammetta and Larsen continued a busy offseason for the Patriots of adding lesser-known free agents.
They include tight end Daniel Fells, offensive lineman Robert Gallery, defensive linemen Trevor Scott and Jonathan Fanene and cornerbacks Marquice Cole and Will Allen.
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.