The Indianapolis Colts play the New England Patriots in six days. On the Monday before the Saturday divisional round matchup in New England, the Colts signed a significant former Patriot - wide receiver Deion Branch.
The Colts also promoted wide receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad to the active roster, and the two roster spots were made available by the team placing defensive lineman Fili Moala and cornerback Greg Toler on injured reserve.
The Colts worked out Branch (34 years old) a few weeks ago but didn't sign him. In seven seasons with the Patriots (three different stints) and five seasons with the Seahawks (in two different stints), Branch has played in 140 career games (111 starts) and has caught 518 passes for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns. In 17 playoff games (13 starts), he has caught 64 passes for 948 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams with the Patriots and was named the Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.
Josh Lenz was originally signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State this offsesaon, was cut, then signed to the Seahawks practice squad, where he was cut a month later.
Fili Moala played in all 16 regular season games this season (6 starts) and made 26 tackles, 1.5 sacks, defended a pass and recovered a fumble. Greg Toler played in 9 games (7 starts) and made 24 tackles and 1 pick. He also started this past Saturday's wild card game before re-injuring his groin and leaving early. He missed almost half of the season due to his groin injury and Chuck Pagano's decision to start him Saturday was questionable, to say the least. He was beyond terrible in that game, constantly getting burned and looking like he had no business being in the game. It was clear he wasn't yet completely healthy.
Additionally, the Colts released defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad. He was originally signed by the Colts to the practice squad just a few days ago, on January 3rd.
Obviously, the signing of Branch is the big one, and added with the signing of Lenz it puts the status of Darrius Heyward-Bey (who left Saturday's game with an injury) in serious doubt. Chuck Pagano said a few moments ago on a conference call that DHB will miss a week or so, which likely will mean that he will be out this weekend against the Patriots. Not that it would matter much for the offense anyway, as he hadn't seen a target in almost a month.
The big question everyone will want answered is what Branch's role will be. My answer: don't expect much. I can't see him coming in and being ahead of T.Y. Hilton, Da'Rick Rogers, or Griff Whalen on such short notice, and he might not be above LaVon Brazill either. We'll see. I wouldn't expect much contribution from Branch next Saturday - his biggest contribution might come this week in giving the Colts information about the Patriots offense and former teammate Tom Brady.