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Patriots Bring Back Deion Branch; Sign Tight End Kellen Winslow

Branch returns to the Patriots after being released on Aug. 31. Winslow comes in to provide depth at tight end while Aaron Hernandez recovers from an ankle injury.

Deion Branch recently admitted he was "surprised" when he was released by the New England Patriots on Aug. 31 and hoped the team called his number at some point this season.

On Tuesday, Branch reportedly got the call he had been waiting for and on Wednesday, the Patriots officially announced the signing of the Super Bowl XXXVIV MVP.

The signing comes four days after Branch made an appearance at Troy Brown's Patriots' Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. The fan favorite received one of the louder welcomes from the thousands in attendance for the event.

Branch's signing was one of several roster moves announced by the Patriots Wednesday. The team also re-signed linebacker Niko Koutouvides and signed veteran tight end Kellen Winslow. Terms of the contracts were not announced.

In addition to the signings, the Patriots released running back Lex Hilliard, linebacker Mike Rivera and wide receiver Greg Salas.

Player Bios

  • Branch: The 33-year-old wide receiver, went to training camp with New England this past summer but was released on Aug. 31. He was originally selected by the Patriots in the second round (65th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Louisville. He was traded by the Patriots to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11, 2006 and then reacquired through a trade with Seattle on Oct. 12, 2010. Last season, Branch started in 15 games that he played in and caught 51 passes for 702 yards with five touchdowns, including a 63-yard reception in the win at Philadelphia on Nov. 27. Branch, 5-9, 195 pounds, has played in 130 games with 107 starts and accumulated 502 receptions for 6,499 yards and 39 touchdowns. He has played in 15 postseason games with 13 starts and has 62 receptions for 932 yards and four touchdowns. His 24 receptions in three Super Bowls are third all time to the 33 by Jerry Rice (four Super Bowls) and the 27 by Andre Reed (four Super Bowls).
  • Koutouvides: The 31-year-old linebacker went to training camp with New England but was released on Aug. 31. He appeared in each of the final 11 games of the Patriots’ 2011 season, including each of their three playoff games. The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder was originally signed by the Patriots on Aug. 14, 2011 during the 2011 preseason, but was released when the team trimmed the roster to 53 prior to the start of the season. He returned to the team at midseason and made his first start of the season at outside linebacker against the Indianapolis Colts less than a month later. He finished the 2011 season with eight defensive stops and nine special teams tackles. Koutouvides was originally drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round (116th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft out of Purdue. He played four seasons with the Seahawks before signing with the Denver Broncos as an unrestricted free agent on March 3, 2008. He was released by the Broncos after the 2008 season and signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks later, where he spent the next two seasons.
  • Winslow: The 29-year-old tight end is a veteran of eight NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns (2004-08) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-11). The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder went to training camp with the Seattle Seahawks this past summer but was released on Sept. 1. Winslow originally entered the NFL as a first round draft pick (6th overall) by Cleveland out of Miami in 2004. He was traded by Cleveland to Tampa Bay on Feb. 27, 2009 for undisclosed draft picks. Winslow was later traded by Tampa bay to Seattle for a 2013 seventh round draft pick on May 21, 2012. In eight NFL seasons, Winslow has played in 92 games with 80 starts and has 437 receptions for 4,836 yards and 23 touchdowns. Last season in Tampa Bay, Winslow caught 75 passes for 763 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Hilliard: The 28-year-old running back, was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on Sept. 4, 2012. He is a veteran of three NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2009-11). The 5-11, 235-pounder signed with Minnesota as an unrestricted free agent on March 21, 2012 but was released by Minnesota on Aug. 31. He originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice (204th overall) by Miami out of Montana in 2008. Hilliard spent his rookie campaign on the Miami practice squad. He has played in 48 NFL games with four starts and has 39 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns and 26 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Hilliard played in the first two games for the Patriots in 2012 and had one carry for two yards last Sunday vs. Arizona.
  • Rivera: The 26-year-old linebacker spent most of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad after being released by Miami following training camp. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent out of Kansas by the Chicago Bears in 2009. After being released by Chicago, Rivera was signed by Tennessee to the practice squad. He was released by Tennessee after training camp in 2010 and joined Green Bay’s practice squad before being signed by Miami to the 53-man roster late in the season. Rivera played in the first two games for the Patriots on special teams.
  • Salas: The 24-year-old wide receiver was acquired by New England in a trade with St. Louis on Sept. 1, 2012 in exchange for an undisclosed future draft choice. He was originally drafted by St. Louis in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Hawaii. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder played in six games for the Rams last season and finished with 27 receptions for 269 yards. His season was limited to six games due to a leg injury. Salas dressed for the season-opener at Tennessee but did not play. He was inactive last week vs. Arizona.

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