Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots walks the sidelines in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
The Patriots spent the off-season trying to sort out its issues at wide receiver. A year ago, they had traded for Chad Johnson in the hopes that he could give Tom Brady a deep threat he hadn't had since Randy Moss was with the team. Instead, Johnson caught 15 passes all season and was released in the spring.
New England, meanwhile, signed (or re-signed) just about every other available wideout -- Donte' Stallworth, Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney -- and when the 53-man roster was announced on Friday evening only Lloyd, who played with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in St. Louis, remained.
Branch, the Pats' second-round pick in 2002 and one of Brady's most reliable targets, was the biggest name to be released. But things somehow got more bizarre when New England sent a late-round 2015 draft pick to the Rams for WR Greg Salas.
For the uninitiated -- and before the weekend that pretty much included everyone -- Salas is a 2011 fourth-round pick out of Hawaii where he set the single-season record for receptions (119) and yards (1,889). A broken fibula limited him to just six games as a rookie where he caught 27 passes for 264 yards and no touchdowns. He also had three fumbles (losing one).
So effectively, the Pats decided on an unproven second-year player in Salas over a reliable vet in Branch? But why? Like most things, money played a factor. ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes that Salas' can expect to make $465,000, $555,000 and $645,000 in base salary over the next three years while Branch was on a one-year, $925,000 deal.
There's also this: Salas, at 24, offers a lot more upside than the 33-year-old Branch. It didn't help that McDaniels was his coach in St. Louis, something that almost certainly factored into coach Bill Belichick's decision to trade for him over the weekend.
Yes, it's a curious move, especially given New England's lack of depth at the position. But they also have two of the league's best tight ends, quarterback Tom Brady and Belichick. We're guessing they'll be fine. Just like always.