Last week we were a little concerned with the number of mouths to feed on the Patriots’ offense in relation to the amount of food supplied by Tom Brady. By food we mean footballs, of course, although perhaps Brady really does feed his wide receivers and tight ends. That would explain their tight, jovial relationship in which pre-game shenanigans are filled with visions of rainbows and puppies.
The greatest area of concern was Brandon Lloyd and his expected targets, although the concern wasn’t overbearing, because Lloyd will receive his looks, and they’ll be deep, and they’ll be spectacular. But nonetheless, with the two tightest tight ends along with Wes Welker in the slot and Deion Branch, the possibility remained that more would be a little less for each individual player. That particularly applied to Lloyd, with Branch also paid to do his deep-ball catching job, just, well, worse.
Now the Patriot way has erased Branch.
The 33-year-old wideout was one of four cuts made today that will save the Pats $4.8 million, according to ESPN’s John Clayton. The other notable axing was backup quarterback Bryan Hoyer. We’re a Tom Brady injury away from Ryan Mallett taking meaningful snaps in an NFL game.
While Hoyer’s release is surprising since he’s often been labeling the next Matt Flynn once he hits the open market (so now, maybe), Branch’s departure isn’t. With Lloyd aboard there was a far better deep option for Brady than the mediocre down field threat Branch presented. You might benefit from the trickle-down affect of this move if you drafted Lloyd hoping for the kind of receiving yardage that he accumulated two years ago in Denver (1,448 yards and 11 TDs).
The Patriots have a high-volume throwing offense, and their habit of spreading out the field will grow with Josh McDaniels in place for a full season. Last year Brady attempted 612 passes, and Branch was the intended target on 90 of them (14.7 percent). With Welker then occupying 28.1 percent of Brady’s attention and the two tight ends checking in at 27.6, something had to give, especially when Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth were still on the roster.
Stallworth’s release was expected, but keeping Gaffney on board for depth beyond Julian friggin Edelman may have been wise. But he was released earlier this week too, so now that extra 30 percent of Brady’s arm and attention is all Lloyd’s, and yours.